MSc Global Urban Development and Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Critical Issues in Urban Inequality

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60531
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? Yes


PART 1: Introduction
1) Introduction: Global overview of economic dimensions and associated concepts, frameworks and approaches
2) Introduction: Global overview of social dimensions and associated concepts, frameworks and approaches
PART 2: Causes, consequences, and manifestations of inequality
3) Settlement: land, services and housing
4) Migration
5) Climate Change
6) Health
7) Water
PART 3: Responses to inequality
8) Individual and household responses: patron-client relationships and the limitations of household agency
9) Institutionalised responses: social movements and an engagement with the political agencies and systems.


The overall aim of this course unit is to examine the key concepts, frameworks, issues and debates in relation to inequalities in Southern towns and cities. We also look globally, to see what we can learn from comparisons across the Global North and South. More specifically, this course aims to offer:

  • An introduction to the concept of inequality and the social, political, economic and spatial dimensions through which inequality is realised and experienced in Southern cities.
  • An analysis of these dimensions of inequality within key recent urban concepts, agendas and policies, including ‘the right to the city’, the new urban agenda and SDG Goal 11.
  • An analysis of the causes of inequality in its different dimensions, looking in particular at social, political, economic and spatial inequalities.
  • An analysis of how processes of inequality may be changing as a result of urban development investments or processes or as a result of external influences like climate change.
  • An analysis of how these concepts and experiences of urban inequality may differ across the Global North and South, and whether North-South comparisons can provide a useful lens for our understanding of urban inequalities.
  • An analysis of how inequality might be addressed, through a consideration and analysis of responses to inequality.


Learning outcomes


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and Tutorials

Knowledge and understanding

Evaluate trends in urban inequality and how these fit within recent urban concepts, agendas and policies.

Analyse the concept of inequality, along social, political, economic and spatial dimensions.

Debate the strengths and limitations of these theories for understanding urban inequality and of the data that we have available for this purpose.

Intellectual skills

Apply theories of inequality to different urban sectors, settings and contexts to explore and analyse how different types of inequalities may differ across these.

Debate the relative merits and pitfalls of analysing urban inequalities across cities of the North and South.

Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of key strategies and mechanisms to address inequality in urban settings.


Practical skills

Have confidence working in small teams of classmates.

Have confidence in presenting to the class.

Build skills of collaboration in designing and conducting small research projects to research urban inequalities.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Self awareness and an ability to take responsibility for your own learning
  • Time management
  • Confidence in justifying your arguments in front of others

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 60%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%

Assignment 1: one group-based essay no more than 1500 words (40%)

Assignment 2: one individual essay between 2,500 and 3,000 words (60%)

Feedback methods

Detailed summative written feedback on the two assessments will be provided via Blackboard. In addition, there is an opportunity for in-class interactions and formative feedback on an essay outline (no more than one page in bullet points) for Assignment 2.  

Recommended reading

Environment and Urbanization special issue on City Inequality (8:2, 1996)

Mitlin, D. and D. Satterthwaite, 2012, 'Critical issues in urban inequality', in, D. Mitlin and D. Satterthwaite, Urban Poverty in the Global South: Scale and Nature (p214-278).

Shatkin, G 2007 Global Cities of the South: Emerging perspectives on growth and inequality, Cities 24(1)

Stewart, F. (2001) Horizontal Inequalities: a neglected dimension of development. WIDER 2001 Annual Development Lecture

Urban Age (2009) Cities and Social Equity, Detailed report, available from the Urban Age website

Walton, M et al (2008) (eds.) Institutional Pathways to Equity: Addressing Inequality Traps, World Bank, Washington

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 27
Independent study hours
Independent study 123

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maria Rusca Unit coordinator

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