BSc Global Development with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Urban Development in the Global South

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI20232
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Globally, over half of the world’s population live in urban areas: over 80% of Latin American residents already live in cities, and the future growth of cities will overwhelmingly occur in Africa and Asia.

Cities typically play an outsized role in economic development, while also being intricately linked with national politics and debates over sustainable development. At the same time, cities are profoundly unequal, and residents may face multiple forms of exclusions based on class, gender, migration status, and other differences.

This course will explore a) key debates on the relationship between cities and development, b) cities’ diverse historical trajectories from colonial times to the present, and c) how urban inequalities are currently being transformed and contested. We will discuss key themes including the provision of housing and infrastructure; migration and the city; urban health; and emerging opportunities for more inclusive forms of urban development.

The focus will be cities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, although with some illustrative comparisons to cities in the Global North as well. Our approach will be interdisciplinary and draw upon findings in development studies, urban planning and policy, geography, and grassroots organisations’ media and related outputs.

We will pay particular attention to bottom-up forms of knowledge generation and action in urban areas, including organisations of informal workers, residents of informal settlements, and urban climate justice advocacy.


The unit aims to:

  1. Examine the historical and contemporary urbanisation patterns in the Global South, with attention to political, socioeconomic, and environmental concerns
  2. Understand key urban policy debates and challenges in the Global South, such as securing access to shelter, tackling climate change, and promoting healthy cities.
  3. Analyse informality, poverty, and urban exclusions across several domains, while also exploring how urban inequalities can be addressed.
  4. Critically assess the potential contributions of grassroots organisations to generating knowledge and advancing development alternatives in cities of the South.
  5. Appreciate the diversity amongst city dwellers and explore intersectional approaches to urban development.
  6. Develop transferable skills, such as sustaining a clear argument with evidence, and communicating ideas both verbally and in writing


Indicative curriculum content

  • Socio-economic, Political, and Environmental Urban Trends in the Global South
  • Histories of Urbanisation - Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives
  • Governing Cities in the South
  • Economic Development, Urban Poverty, and Informality
  • Urban Inequalities and Intersectionality
  • Housing and Infrastructure (1) - State-led and development agency strategies
  • Housing and Infrastructure (2) - Auto-construction and alternatives
  • Bottom-up Urban Development: Grassroots Data-Collection and Advocacy
  • Urban Mobility and Displacement Towards the Healthy City
  • Climate Change and Urban Environmental Justice

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through weekly lectures and tutorials, as follows:

  • Weekly lectures (2 hours) that provide a critical overview of each topic and include opportunities for interaction via small group activities; and
  • Weekly tutorials (1 hour) that will feature group-based activities based on discussion of key readings. There will also periodic discussion of short films, interviews, or other media (including produced by grassroots organisations in the Global South).

Lecture slides, reading lists and tutorial instructions will be provided on Blackboard in advance

Knowledge and understanding

  • Describe current trends in urbanisation and the links between cities and economic development, including how urbanisation patterns vary across the Global South
  • Explain key challenges such as urban poverty; inadequate shelter; climate change; and a range of environmental, socioeconomic, and political exclusions in cities
  • Explore the role of grassroots organisations (led by informal workers and residents of informal settlements) and inclusive partnerships in addressing urban challenges.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically assess various policy approaches to tackling inadequate housing, infrastructure, and other urban challenges
  • Use a gender-sensitive and intersectional approach to understand cities’ complex divides.
  • Gain an interdisciplinary understanding of urbanisation and draw upon both qualitative and quantitative data to explore urban inequalities

Practical skills

  • Writing analytically both for popular audiences (in a blog) and for academic audiences (in final essay)
  • Independently gather and analyse a range of case study materials to prepare for the final essay

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop a critical and analytical argument, making use of appropriate evidence on cities in the Global South
  • Actively participate in discussions during tutorials and group activities
  • Communicate ideas clearly both verbally and in writing

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
  1. Blog: Analyse Key Urban Inequalities and Emerging Responses to Address Them (weighting 30%)
  2. Essay: Students will discuss a key theme from the course using illustrative case studies from the Global South (weighting 70%)

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback: Students will have the opportunity to request and receive non-evaluative, specific feedback on their ideas about their assessments during tutorials immediately prior to the submission of each assessment.

Written feedback will be provided via Blackboard for the two assessemnts consistent with University policy


Recommended reading

Bhan, G., Srinivas, S. and Watson, V., eds. (2018). Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South. Routledge

Goodfellow, Tom and Sean Fox (2016). Cities and Development (2nd Ed.), Routledge.

Miraftab, Faranak and Kudva, Neema (2015). Cities of the Global South Reader. Routledge

Home, R. (2014). Shaping cities of the global south: Legal histories of planning and colonialism. In The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South (pp. 97-107). Routledge.

Watson, V. (2009). ‘The planned city sweeps the poor away…’: Urban planning and 21st century urbanisation. Progress in Planning, 72(3), 151-193.

Devas, N. (2014). Urban poverty and governance in an era of globalization, decentralization and democratization. In Urban Governance, Voice and Poverty in the Developing World. Routledge.

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) (2022). Chapter 3: Governance and pathways to urban and territorial equality. GOLD VI Report, Barcelona.

Turok, I., & McGranahan, G. (2013). Urbanization and economic growth: the arguments and evidence for Africa and Asia. Environment and Urbanization, 25(2), 465-482.

Carré F, and Chen M (eds) (2020). The Informal Economy Revisited. Routledge

Environment and Urbanization (2016) Vol. 28(2) on Urban Livelihoods 

Lemanski, C. and C. Marx (2015). The City in Urban Poverty. Palgrave.

Fischer, B., B. McCann, and J. Auyero (eds.) (2014). Cities From Scratch: Poverty and Informality in Urban Latin America. Duke University Press.

Mitlin, D. and D. Satterthwaite (2013). Urban Poverty: Scale and Nature. Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alice Sverdlik Unit coordinator

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