MSc in Strategic Urban Planning and Policies: Managing Socio-Spatial Dynamics for Sustainable Cities


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Program Description

Study programme

Cities are complex, dynamic systems, influenced by different stakeholders, which requires a more flexible approach. This specialisation track delves deeper into how planning can respond flexibly to the urban dynamics and how various stakeholders can engage in the co-production of a commonly desired urban development.

The Strategic Urban Planning and Policies programme is a specialisation track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development, which links theory and practice by working with concepts, theories, and tools about strategic planning, stakeholder participation, self-governance, informality, spatial justice, placemaking, and trust-building. The track addresses what strategic urban planning means in the context of rapid urbanisation, informal settlement, social deprivation, growing inequalities, and economic decline. Through the lens or urban justice, students will analyse how cities function and what the role of strategic planning and policy is in the urban development process. Next to learning how to do urban planning, you will also reflect on the implications different planning policies have on the socio-spatial dynamics of cities with regards to the spatial distribution of wealth, services and opportunities, representations of identities, social positions and practices in space as well as in decision-making in and about the city.

Course objectives

At the end of the course participants should be able to:
  • Critically assess socio-spatial dynamics in an urban context based on specific concepts and theories addressed during the course.
  • Identify and engage with stakeholders in a planning process and analyse their interests and needs.
  • Apply concepts and tools related to strategy development, integrating social, environmental, economic, spatial, financial and institutional components of urban plans.
  • Reflect on the qualities of planning and policies, the interests and values that plans and policies represent and their impact on existing dynamics.
  • Come up with creative solutions by synthesizing and combining concepts and ideas that critically address socio-spatial dynamics in complex urban problems, individually and in the team.
  • Convincingly communicate ideas, plans and arguments, supported by theory, orally, visually and in writing.

How is your year organised?

In the first and second block, the programme shares courses on urban theory, governance, policy, planning, and public-private partnerships, and local government finance and investment with the other specialisation tracks. However, your assignments within the course modules, as well as the action planning workshop, are always track-specific. In the third block of the programme, your courses will only be track-specific with the possibility to take an extra elective course. In the fourth block of the programme you will strengthen your research skills through research methods courses and workshops and write your Master’s thesis on a topic relevant to your specialisation track. Some example research topics are listed below. Other topics can also be accepted if approved by the coordinators of the specialisation track and the thesis supervisor.

Examples of thesis research
  • Beyond shelter – Impact of tenements on social inclusion/exclusion in middle-income neighbourhoods of Nairobi. A Case study of Donholm
  • Water supply interventions in informal settlements: Factors influencing the usage of automated water dispensers. A case study of Mathare Settlement in Nairobi City.
  • Analysis of Urban Residential Location Choice Kampala, Uganda
  • The self-organized citizen and its outcome in urban regeneration: a case study of Bangrak-Khlong San District, Bangkok
  • The Effects of Capacity Building in Alleviating Joblessness in Resettlement Sites: The Case of Southville 7 Calauan, Philippines
  • Assessing the impact of involuntary resettlement on the perceived quality of life: Case of resettled residents of Ubumwe to Batsinda
  • Analyzing the Influence of small-scale rental housing market on bottom-up inclusionary housing in middle-income neighbourhoods of Kigali City
  • Assessing the influence of the customary land tenure on the growth of informal settlement in Oshiuman, Amasaman district in Accra
  • Physical planning and urban spatial disparities: Analysing social residential disparities in Kampala as influenced by physical planning and self-organization
  • Freeland of Oosterwold - Organic Urban Expansion and Community Building in Oosterwold
Programme Curriculum

Blocks 1 & 2 - October to January

  • Urban Theory
  • Urban Governance, Policy, Planning and Public-Private Partnership
  • Local Government Finance and Investments
  • Action Planning Workshop

Block 3 - January to April

  • Introduction and Development of Socio-Spatial Skills
  • Planning Theory
  • Spatial Justice Theory
  • Stakeholder Involvement
  • Game Development
  • Game Presentation and Evaluation
  • Elective course
    • Choose from:
    • Cities and migration
    • Understanding international urban policy: SDGs and the NUA
    • GIS methods for urban research
    • Gender in urban theory, practice, and research
    • Inclusive smart cities
    • Urban policy analysis

Block 4 - April to September

  • Research Methods and Techniques
  • Urban Research Workshops
  • Field Work and Master Thesis
    • The research process for the thesis is divided into three main steps:
    • The research proposal
    • Data collection and data preparation
    • Data analysis and thesis writing

Why study MasterStrategic Urban Planning and Policies

Cities are complex, dynamic systems, influenced by a myriad of different stakeholders. Traditional urban planning can no longer accommodate the changing needs of stakeholders created by this dynamic nature of urban development. Instead, a more flexible approach that embraces the open-endedness of the urban development process and acknowledges the different needs stakeholders have, is required. This approach is called strategic urban planning and calls for a different set of skills among urban planners. In this programme, you will gain the qualifications to become an urban development professional specialised in action research, contemporary planning methods, serious gaming, and stakeholder negotiation. You will apply these skills and reflect on them through working on a case study in Rotterdam.

"IHS’ inspiring environment which connects people from different cultures and professional backgrounds is the embodiment of ‘unity in diversity’."

Hala Abi Saad, Lebanon

Urban Management & Development Alumna

Why study at IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam?

Earn your MSc degree from a top 100 university

Known for its academic rigour and high quality of education, Erasmus University Rotterdam is consistently ranked in the top 3% of the world’s best universities.

Our teaching methods are unique

Alongside IHS teaching and research activities, our faculty members work in the field on real-life cases around the world. Challenges, learnings, and questions from these different contexts are brought back to the classroom and woven into our curriculum.

You apply everything you learn - no dry theory

Students learn through a blend of lectures, real-life case studies, discussions, debates, simulation environments, written assignments, and group work. Field visits and projects in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities provide first-hand exposure to local urban problems. Students have the option to complete their thesis fieldwork abroad and immerse themselves in a relevant urban context to collect data.

We offer a truly international and diverse environment

The IHS classroom is comprised of mid-level professionals and fresh graduates with rich and varied experiences from more than 45 countries. Typical backgrounds include architecture, engineering, planning, economics, social science, environmental science, and housing.

Study in Rotterdam - a hub of sustainable urban innovation

Iconic architecture, pioneering urban planning, and a celebrated multicultural population have thrust Rotterdam to the forefront of innovation and cultivation within the urban world.

Enjoy guest lecturers from UN-Habitat and other key stakeholders in the urban field

IHS works with global leaders in the field of urban development, including UN-Habitat, Cities Alliance and ICLEI as well as with leading universities in the Netherlands and around the world to ensure additional academic resources for our students.

What are some of the special features of this track?

Next to earning your MSc diploma from Erasmus University Rotterdam, an institution that is consistently ranked among the top 3% of the world’s best universities, studying the Strategic Urban Planning & Policies track also means that you will get to:

Learn to design and use serious games for urban planning

Students will develop and play-out a serious game with real-life stakeholders in Rotterdam with a focus on the current trends of residential mobility.

Gain stakeholder negotiation skills

Multi-stakeholder involvement is key in planning processes. However, often due to power imbalances and conflicting interests, not all stakeholders are equally involved. In this specialisation track, you will learn how to lead and manager stakeholder negotiation processes.

Conduct your thesis research as a part of a large-scale project

Staff from this specialisation track are active policy advisors & are involved in real-life projects. Last year students had the opportunity to conduct their thesis research connected to a project in Ecuador & interview people from the government, international cooperation agencies and UN-Habitat.

Work on a real-life case study in Rotterdam

Examples from previous years include:

  • Research documentation in Rotterdam Noord (I)
  • Student blog on action planning in Rotterdam Zuid
  • Examples of final group work
Learn how to conduct action research

In this track, you will learn how to conduct action research and planning and apply the typical for this type of research reflective practice.

Last updated Nov 2020

About the School

ESSB is home to a vast diversity of study programmes and scientific disciplines: Public Administration, Pedagogical Sciences, Psychology and Sociology. In addition, the Erasmus University College, IHS ... Read More

ESSB is home to a vast diversity of study programmes and scientific disciplines: Public Administration, Pedagogical Sciences, Psychology and Sociology. In addition, the Erasmus University College, IHS, and two research institutes RISBO and DRIFT are linked to the faculty. Our education is small-scale and based around Problem Based Learning (PBL). Being connected to the professional field is another characteristic of our study programmes. Read less
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