MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Critical Issues in Urban Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code URBN70001
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


What is special about cities? What issues do cities face today? How is Urban Studies uniquely suited to help make sense of urbanization in the world today? This course unit gives students an advanced foundation in the study of urbanization and cities, while also introducing the interdisciplinary approach that Urban Studies offers for understanding urban issues. The course will focus on core concepts, theories, and issues in urban studies, drawing on a range of approaches. The course unit will be taught by a combination of scholars from across disciplines, and this will give students a diverse, interdisciplinary set of theoretical tools to place ‘the city’ in historical context and analyse issues and debates. Overall, Critical Issues in Urban Studies aims to develop a broad understanding of all that constitutes the urban, incorporating topics such as political economy, social life, difference and inequalities, social movements and activism, public and private space, representations of the city, urban design, the city in global context, and other geometries of power. At the end of the course unit, students will thus gain a foundation of advanced analytical skills, preparing them for the interdisciplinary study of urbanization and cities in the Urban Studies MSc programme.


The unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to the breadth of urban studies’ debates, content, and approaches, emphasizing the interdisciplinarity of the discipline’s focus.
  • Support students’ building of a foundational knowledge in urban studies’ core concepts, theories, and issues. 
  • Build students’ analytical skills as they apply to urban issues.
  • Introduce students to the key issues urban studies contends with and the key theoretical approaches urban studies researchers use to study those issues.
  • Advance the presenting and writing skills of students, as well as in working on group projects.
  • Advance students’ abilities to communicate academic ideas to broad audiences.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to:

Teaching and learning methods

Seminars and discussion will assess students’ knowledge and understanding ILOs and Intellectual skills.

Class time will incorporate short lectures, videos and podcasts, document/primary source analysis, field trip (walking tour) in Greater Manchester, and other interactive tasks to develop and assess students achievements of the ILOs.

Assessments will incorporate skills development using technology – students will be directed to a variety of eLearning options for them to choose from to develop their group projects; students have the choice of how much and which technology they wish to incorporate in their projects. The Blackboard site will provide support for the projects and students will also have two set opportunities for formative feedback (group meeting with the unit convener and a presentation in week 12).

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify, explain, and assess the key concepts, issues, and theories in urban studies.
  • Identify and explain the interdisciplinarity of urban studies and the importance of this interdisciplinarity to the study of the city and urbanisation.

Intellectual skills

  • Apply key urban studies and foundational concepts and theories to urban issues
  • Recognise and analyse the actors, interests, scales, institutions, and solutions that are relevant to complex urban issues

Practical skills

  • Summarize, analyse, and communicate complex ideas about urban studies and urban issues in clear and creative ways to academic and non-academic audiences.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work with peers from various backgrounds, recognise diversity and difference, and develop inter-personal and group communication skills through focusing on key urban issues
  • Demonstrate initiative and self-direction in learning and research
  • Evaluate and analysis of different kinds of evidence and information related to critical urban issues

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%
Project output (not diss/n) 70%

Feedback methods

Feedback on assessed work will be via Blackboard 15 working days after submission

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 7
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 121

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Caitlin Henry Unit coordinator

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