MPlan Planning

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Future Cities

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN36021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course unit will examine how cities are developing around the world in what we call the ‘urban age’. Each day there are an estimated 193,107 new urban dwellers (UN-Habitat 2009). This is equivalent to a city larger than the size of Dallas every week, the population of Rio de Janeiro just over every month or a new Russia every two years. Across the globe, the city has been overwhelmingly selected as the habitat of choice for humanity and has consequently become the nexus for an array of physical, economic, social, political and cultural capital. So, by the middle of the twenty first century three in four of us will live in cities.


We are living in the urban age, which is more than just about cities, but is about how a mode of organizing space and society is shaping the world in which almost all of us live. Those great cities of the twentieth century – Paris, London and others – continue to grow in size, slowly but surely. However, some of the most important changes are happening elsewhere in the world-Delhi, Karachi, Mumbai, Shanghai, São Paulo; these cities are where the action is, where population growth rates are the highest, and where the issues of producing and managing ecological, economically, and socially sustainable cities are at the most pressing.


In this light, the course will introduce students to the challenges currently facing cities and to some of the ways academics have sought to make sense of them and policy-makers have sort to overcome them. Using case studies and discussions, the students will be equipped with knowledge to understand how cities of the future might develop, with a particular focus on the notion of the ‘smart’ city.


The unit aims to:

• Explore the principles, nature and practice of planning systems and processes around the world

• Develop knowledge on different approaches to planning and development

• Stimulate critical thinking such on different approaches to planning and development

• Reflect on future trends in urban development in global cities

• Introduce the notion of the future ‘smart’ city in a global context

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to: 



Syllabus (indicative curriculum content):

  • Planning systems
  • City profiling
  • Future cities: big picture
  • Future cities and climate change
  • Smart future cities
  • Future cities: utopia or dystopia?

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures (11 x 2 hours = 22 hours):

Each element of the course unit will be covered through interactive lectures with opportunities for discussion and supported by asynchronous multimedia materials provided on Blackboard.

Workshops (9 x 1 hour = 9 hours):

Core themes are discussed in these Q and A sessions to allow discussion and application of knowledge and skills individually or in small groups followed by more plenary discussion.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain different types of planning system across the globe.
  • Discuss the current issues facing cities in relation to their future development.
  • Recognise the challenges of what is commonly referred to as the ‘urban age’.
  • Express the notion of the ‘smart’ city.

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluate how cities are coping with competing social, economic and environmental demands.
  • Compare the global spatial disparities between cities.
  • Summarise existing research on the different theoretical perspectives for understanding what is commmonly referred to as the 'urban age'

Practical skills

  • Illustrate arguments with examples and case studies drawn from cities around the world.
  • Recognise the various methods that have been used to study the current and future challenges facing cities around the world.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop critical writing and analysis.
  • Effectively communicate ideas and concepts orally and in writing.

Assessment methods

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

Formative Assessment

Assignment surgeries are provided online for both Assignment 1 and Assignment 2. 

Summative Assessment

Individual poster, Maximum 3xA3 Sheets (40% Weighting) 

Essay and critical reflection, 2500-3000 words (60% Weighting)

Feedback methods

Formative Assessment

Feedback is provided verbally in online sessions

Summative  Assessment

Online through Turnitin within 15 days of submission

Recommended reading

Batty, M. (2018) Inventing Future Cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Burdett R (2010) Endless City. Phaidon Press, London.

Gleeson B (2013) The Urban Condition. Routledge: London.

Hall, P. and Tewdwr-Jones, M. (2019) Urban and Regional Planning, London: Routledge, 6th edition.

LeGates, R. T. and Stout, F. (2011) The City Reader. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken. 5th edition.

Monk, S., Whitehead, C., Burgess, G. and Tang, C. (2013) International review of land supply and planning systems, JRF, York.

Soja, E. (2010) Seeking spatial justice. University of Minnesota Press, Bristol.

Townsend, A. (2013). Smart cities¿: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Current reading list:

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 9
Independent study hours
Independent study 169

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Carter Unit coordinator

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