Urban Studies MA

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Reasons to study Urban Studies MA at DMU:

This MA is a high profile international programme in Urban Studies, drawing on the critical urban research traditions developed in the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity, to explore the transformation and challenges in the political economy, governance and geography of cities. By bringing together scholarship from politics, urban studies, urban geography, political economy, the programme provides theoretical and analytical tools to address urban topics such as local governance, local socio-political and economic innovation, social inequalities and urban sustainability. 

The MA programme in Urban Studies is informed by up-to-date scholarship and makes use of materials that ensure that students are engaging with debates that are at the forefront of the discipline. Students on this course will benefit from our local and international networks, whose contributions are embedded in the curriculum. In addition, we offer three unique opportunities that are all relevant to the programme:

  • Participatory Action Research project
    The programme offers a compulsory 30 credit research-based learning module “Participatory Research in Action”, The module is organised in two different blocks: the first block will focus on research methods training. For the second block, the students will work in teams and design and develop a Participatory Action-Research Project in collaboration with #DMULocal. Through this module, the students will have the opportunity to use and contrast the theoretic and methodological knowledge with practical training that will potentially have an impact on the city.  
  • Opportunities for engagement with practitioners and stakeholders
    Besides the PAR project, the curriculum of the programme emphasises the contact with practitioners and stakeholders, marrying broader concepts to practice and bringing in practice-based links result of the work that the members of the teaching team are developing. 

Opportunity to travel to Barcelona
 to undertake one module in the “Master Metropolis in Urban and Metropolitan Studies” at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This institution is a leading institution in the field of Urban Governance and Barcelona is the most exciting city in Europe from the standpoint of its resistance to austerity and the attempt to craft new municipalism rooted in a radicalised participatory governance model.  


At DMU, we are committed to helping our graduates enhance their careers and personal development through further study.

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International Scholarships
Find out about available scholarships and country specific fee discounts for international students.


We are currently finalising our scholarship packages for 2018 entry.

More courses like this:


  • UK/EU
  • International

Key facts for UK/EU students

Institution code: D26

Programme code: K44071

Duration: 12 months full-time
Part-time option is also available

Start dates: 
September 2020
January 2020

Location of study: Faculty of Business and Law, Hugh Aston Building

Fees and funding: 

For 2020/21 tuition fees for UK/EU students will be £9,000

Find out more about course fees and available funding

Find out more about the Vice-Chancellor's Sports Scholarships worth up to £6,000

Find out more about additional costs and optional extras associated with this course

Contact us: For more information complete our online enquiry form or call us on +44 (0)116 2 50 60 70.

Key facts for international students

Institution code: D26

Programme code: K44071

Duration: 12 months full-time
Part-time option is also available

Start dates:
September 2020
January 2020

Location of study: Leicester Business School, Hugh Aston Building

Fees and funding:

For 2020/21 tuition fees for international students will be £14,100

Find out more about course fees and available funding

Find out more about the Vice-Chancellor's Sports Scholarships worth up to £6,000

Find out more about additional costs and optional extras associated with this course.


Contact us: For more information complete our online enquiry form or call us on +44 (0)116 2 50 60 70.

Entry criteria

Entry criteria

Students should hold a First or Upper Second Class degree or overseas equivalent in Politics, Sociology, Economy, Geography and other Social Science and Planning disciplines.

Applications from other disciplines and those with significant professional experience will be considered individually. 

English Language requirements

IELTS 6.0, including 5.5 in each component or equivalent.

Structure and assessment


Course modules

Teaching and assessment

Teaching contact hours


Course modules

  • Introduction to Urban Political Economy
    This will be the introductory module for the MA in Urban Studies and essential preparation for subsequent modules. As the opening module, its purpose will be to provide a robust academic grounding in urban theory and urban questions upon which the rest of the programme will build. It will begin by discussing the historical context of urbanisation and the importance of cities and city-regions as drivers of political, cultural and economic development down the ages.  It will proceed to discuss theoretical perspectives influencing the field, and major issues in contemporary urban political economy, viewed in an international and comparative context. The latter part of the module will explore how urbanists work with and against prevalent influential concepts, such as austerity, crisis and neoliberalism.  It will prepare students for later modules by introducing address unsustainable and iniquitous forms of urban development currently rife across the planet
  • Governing and Managing Cities
    The module aims to present the complexity of governing arrangements to which cities are subject.  The content covers different theories and perspectives on coordination, collaboration and management of territory, services and public policy across different scales of action. The module focuses on British debates and their applicability to other world regions and as a result of globalisation
  • Participatory Research in Action 
    The module is organised in two different blocks: The module will first focus on research methods training. It will introduce the students to the foundational aspects of social research and place action-research in the context of the methodological approaches in social science. The students will then be instructed on the main methods and techniques for Action-Research. Secondly, the students will design and develop a Participatory Action Research project putting in practice the use of different research techniques. Through the action-research project, the students will complement the theoretic and methodological knowledge with practical training that will allow them to use and contrast the concepts introduced within the master on the terrain.
  • Urban Challenges
    The current period of human history can be viewed not only as a global but also urban era, in which resources, power, population are concentrated in urban areas. This module provides an overarching framework for considering the complex challenges facing urban areas in both the Global North and Global South. The module tracks the global pattern of urban change over the last century, using critical urban theory to examine challenges from different viewpoints; examining the accelerated growth of megacities, global triads, charter cities, and special zones within a broader doctrine of planetary urbanism, evolutionary growth, and/or sites of assemblage.  Drawing on the complexity of socio-spatial arrangements, the module then considers the factors affecting the rate of urbanisation, how change creates pressure points, which manifest as social, economic, and physical challenges at the local level, and creating unique features of contemporary urban living. The module examines how such problems require informed and nuanced policy design, which might potentially produce alternative urban futures.

Plus three options from the following*: 

  • Urban Infrastructure and Sustainable Cities
    This module investigates the politics of urban infrastructures, critically evaluating mainstream discourses of urban infrastructure in the context of the climate crisis and the development of sustainable cities. We first question the governance of urban infrastructure, foregrounding how urban infrastructure can be seen as complex socio-technical assemblages intrinsically linked to the exercise of urban power and the reproduction of economic, political and social boundaries across the city. We then turn to the study of contemporary campaigns in urban communities against (and in support of) infrastructure development, analysing the politics of such movements and what it tells us about the democratic governance of contemporary cities. Finally, taking our critical reading of infrastructure forward into the analysis of case studies from across the global North and South, we conclude by assessing how far new technologies and infrastructure investment, part of the discourse of ecological modernisation, can inform (or not) the development of sustainable cities.
  • Difference, Inequality and Conflict in the City
    This module introduces students to histories, theories, debates and case studies relating to difference, intersecting inequalities and social conflict in urban environments. Part 1 explores diversity, difference and intersecting inequalities among those who live in, or pass through, cities; race, migration, gender, sexuality, disability and class are all explored as key, imbricated factors shaping social difference in urban environments. Part 2 develops the module’s focus to incorporate strategies and institutions for governing social difference and conflict in cities, including securitisation and policing. Part 3 explores a range of modes and movements of resistance to such governmental power and interventions into urban difference, including riots, urban labour movements and musical cultures of resistance.
  • Comparative Territorial Governance
    This module analyses the impact of territoriality on political structures, process and outcomes. Although most of the mainstream literature still tends to focus on nation-states as the key units of analysis, since the post-war period many countries across Europe have had to adapt – although to varying degrees – to demands for the ‘territorialisation’ of politics. Within this context, most nation-states have opened up to and/or have been affected by processes of decentralisation, devolution, regionalisation or federalism. This is particularly true in the contemporary context: far from disappearing, the territorial dimension is becoming increasingly important in understanding how politics functions in western liberal democracies. Thus, the module will explore the complex dynamics of territorial politics and the challenges it poses with a specific focus on the impact of territoriality on state structures, party politics and public policy, adopting a comparative European perspective. As such, the module will provide a theoretical exploration of the key concepts and issues underpinning contemporary debates on territorial politics. This will be complemented with an analysis of the challenges and opportunities related to the ‘territorialisation of politics’, based on an examination of specific case studies across Europe. 
  • Alternative Urban Futures
    With over half of the world’s population currently residing in urban areas, human futures are urban futures. But what might these look like? And are they sources of hope for the future or warning signs from the present? Academics, policymakers and activists across the globe today are envisioning and mapping out different ways in which cities can be organised, providing glimpses of possible futures to come. This module sets out to critically examine lived and imagined alternative futures for the city, drawing on a combination of academic and practitioner expertise. Structured around six different visions of cities being enacted today, students will have the opportunity to interrogate their inner workings by analysing case studies from around the globe and engaging with those looking to put them into practice. Possible topics include (but not limited to): the Smart City; the Networked City; the Sustainable City; the Cooperative City; the Autonomous City; the Dystopian City. Starting from these theoretical frameworks, they will assess each week these different and often-competing visions of future cities, evaluate policy and practice in action, and propose solutions that emerge from their in-depth analyses of our possible urban futures.
  • Metropolis and Economic and Socio-political Innovation (Module offered in Barcelona)
    The module is proposed as a workshop to analyse and debate the main types of socio-political and economic innovation practices in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona. Initiatives to respond to the crisis will be discussed, as well as the creation of alternatives and the satisfaction of needs from personal and collective empowerment. The networks of cooperative economy in the metropolis will be studied

 *The running of certain modules will be subject to student demand. 

Note: All modules are subject to change in order to keep content current.


You must also undertake a dissertation, providing an invaluable opportunity to work in depth on a particular aspect of interest. The dissertation enables students to complete a project entailing independent study and the use of appropriate research techniques and source materials.  It may consist of a critical evaluation of literature, of a reassessment of evidence, of an evaluation of particular approaches or techniques, or of a limited piece of original or applied research.  It will build on the foundation provided by the taught modules on the MA programmes for which it is the dissertation module and may involve either the fuller development of subject matter and techniques encountered in the taught programme or the exploration of new areas and techniques appropriate to the overall programme of study.  Students will be encouraged to identify and use appropriate research methods and skills.  A major aim of the dissertation is to encourage students to relate concepts and frameworks to empirical evidence and to encourage the critical appreciation of both techniques and evidence.

Teaching and assessment

The programme uses a range of teaching and learning methods aligned to the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy, the QAA framework for national qualifications, the work of the Higher Education Academy. The learning and teaching methods embrace a range of approaches that have demonstrated effectiveness in postgraduate management education. These include traditional lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops. Academic staff use a variety of innovative approaches to assist with the delivery of the programme and to encourage student participation. Material on a typical module is taught through a variety of means. These typically include interactive lectures, debates, group work, document analysis, presentations, e-learning tools, visiting lecturers, practitioner master-classes and class discussions. Class discussions are a key aspect in the delivery of modules as it provides the opportunity for students to engage in challenging discussions that promote independent critical thinking.

In addition, we make wide use of the e-learning platform Blackboard in order to encourage increased student participation and involvement. Blackboard is used as an integral part of the teaching and learning experience at DMU.  All of the modules will have a Blackboard site, which Module Leaders will use to post information to support formal, face-to-face teaching.  Student work will be submitted through Turnitin via the specific module Blackboard sites.

On this programme, it is expected that participants should take major responsibility for their learning. Participants are expected to engage in their learning environment in a meaningful and proactive manner in order to aid learning. This learning approach aims to utilise the valuable learning opportunities provided by the diversity of knowledge and experience within the cohort. The teaching philosophy is one of mutual commitment to the educational process from both the faculty and the students.

A key element of the MA programme is that core staff teaching at the programme are research leaders within the institution, meaning that teaching is research-led.  Staff are linked into extensive professional networks that help to inform their teaching, and for whom the teaching also provides a key context to the work of the network. The application of the Research-Informed Teaching Approach in its four dimensions: 

  • Research-led learning: a key aspect of the delivery of the programme is the use of primary documentation and case studies. Especially relevant is the module “Alternative Urban Futures”, where the students will have the opportunity of engaging with different stakeholders and practitioners. 
  • Research-oriented learning: a 30cr core module “Participatory Research in Action” is designed for research processes and methodologies learning and provides an understanding of advanced research design and data handling. 
  • Research-based learning: the dissertation provides students with the opportunity to display advanced research and critical thinking skills in an extended piece of work. But the students will also have the opportunity to learn as researchers through the design and development of a participatory action-research project. The project will allow the students to complement the theoretic and methodological knowledge with practical training to use and contrast the concepts introduced with in the master on the terrain.
  • Research-tutored learning: the learning and teaching methods designed for the programme are thought to facilitate the critique and the discussion between themselves and the teaching staff. 

The programme is taught through a diet of core and option modules as set out in the list above. The taught core modules provide students with knowledge and understanding of key concepts, theories and issues that are of relevance to the urban studies, studies, here understood as comprising urban politics and urban governance.The University’s Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy, the QAA framework for national qualifications, the work of the Higher Education Academy and the UDL approach have all informed the development of our assessment strategy.

The assessment provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate that they have met the objectives and achieved the learning outcomes to the standard of an MA degree. As part of the programme design, the course team have paid particular attention to achieving an appropriate balance of assessment strategies.  Over the whole programme, there is a varied mix of assessment including group presentations, group reports, case study analysis and individual exercises. Part of the rationale for this mix is to assess different skills that enable candidates to collect, prioritise, assimilate and disseminate information in different contexts, develop self-critical and reflective practice skills and professional skills. This approach also allows the opportunity to explore specialist topics in greater depth, partly in preparation for the dissertation. However, we have made the deliberate decision to set more conventional written-based activities, e.g. essays and reports, as the substantive summative assessment piece.

The students will be issued in advance with a proposed timetable of assessments to ensure that academic work is timed appropriately and that students are provided with an opportunity to plan and manage their time and workloads effectively

Teaching contact hours

The MA is offered as a full-time or part-time course.

For the full-time course, the students should be prepared to devote approximately 38 hours a week to your studies. The programme is delivered in teaching blocks. Each two weeks block correspond to a module –except the Participatory Research in Action module that runs for the whole academic year. Most weeks you will have up to 14 hours of contact teaching, while other weeks are meant for individual study. Besides, each module provides surgery hours for individual consultation with the lecturer.

Please, contact us for details about part-time options.

To prepare for, and assimilate, the work in lectures and seminars you will be expected to make regular use of our online resources, participate in classroom discussions including on our virtual learning environment (VLE) and engage in personal study, revision and reflection for approximately 24 hours per week.

Facilities and features

Hugh Aston Building

You will be taught in our purpose-built Hugh Aston Building.

Facilities also include lecture theatres and classrooms with capacities ranging from 50 to 250 people, break-out spaces for group work, quiet study zones for individual work and a large number of high-spec IT labs, some of which are installed with professional software.

Library services

The main Kimberlin Library is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (other than in exceptional circumstances) and offers a huge range of online resources, all of which can be remotely accessed from anywhere you choose.

The library is run by dedicated staff who offer additional support to students, including help with academic writing, research strategies, literature searching and reference management and assistive technology, and mathematical skills for non-maths students. There is also a Just Ask service for help and advice, available via email or telephone.

Learning zones

Our Learning Zones and the The Greenhouse also provide space for group or individual work and study.

There are 1,600 study places across all library locations, more than 700 computer stations, laptops to borrow, free wi-fi and desktop power outlets.

You can also book rooms with plasma screens, laptops and DVD facilities for group work and presentations, secure an individual study room with adjustable lighting or make use of our assistive technology.

Opportunities and careers



This is our innovative international experience programme which aims to enrich your studies and expand your cultural horizons – helping you to become a global graduate, equipped to meet the needs of employers across the world.

Through DMU Global, we offer a wide range of opportunities including on-campus and UK activities, overseas study, internships, faculty-led field trips and volunteering, as well as Erasmus+ and international exchanges.


Graduate careers

The programme is aimed at students who are willing to carry on towards a PhD degree, but also to those who are willing to develop a professional career in the field of urban governance and management.

The students concluding their studies will be equipped with a range of high-level skills that will open up a variety of professional career opportunities in the public and private sector, as well as in NGOs and voluntary and community sector. The degree would be useful for graduates interested in becoming, among other things: civil servants, community development workers, environmental managers, estates managers, landscape architects, sustainability consultants and planning and development surveyors

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