Since my undergraduate studies in economics, I have always been interested in understanding how spatial dynamics and the built environment influence economic performance and wellbeing; and how public sector interventions should approach urban and regional development. Working as territorial policy analyst for the Yucatan regional government in Mexico, this interest became stronger, as I could see from first-hand the significant impact that basic services had on people’s lives and their communities; but also how a narrow conception of urban development planning, focused mainly in dispersing infrastructure projects, limited the competitiveness and equity of our cities.
For these reasons, I decided to pursue a Masters on local economic development. After revising the vast offer of programmes addressing this area, I chose UCL DPU’s MSc Urban Economic Development, as it was one of the few whose curricula specialised on the issues affecting the cities of the Global South; and which offered the opportunity to participate in real-life development projects in London and abroad.
Since my first week at the DPU I felt encouraged to critically reflect on the development ideas and agendas that to the moment I had learned and even promoted and to actively discuss them with an eager group of lecturers and peers. The core modules, notably Managing the City Economy, let me progressively build a theoretically sound approach to urban and regional economic analysis; the London Project gave my team and I the chance to collaborate with the HM Government Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy preparing a study on the development perspectives of the Thames Estuary underperforming towns and cities – an opportunity that I deem invaluable; and the Development Practice Fieldtrip in Peru allowed me to work in a region with similar challenges to my own, in one of the urban subjects that interests me the most: the economic significance of urban mobility and accessibility. Finally, after taking the very insightful module on Transport Equity and Urban Mobility I decided to write my dissertation on Bus Rapid Transit, accessibility and value capture opportunities for Mexican cities, where I had the support as supervisor of one of the leading researchers on urban mobility in Latin America.
All the knowledge and competencies I acquired during my year in the DPU allowed me to start working on urban economic analysis projects as soon as I returned to Mexico and opened me the doors to join my regional government’s agency for urban development and mobility, as Economic and Policy Advisor. Nowadays, I am drafting a technical report for the human settlements and urban development policy of the region, where I am applying every notion and theory I studied in UCL. All in all, for any prospective student considering the MSc Urban Economic Development I can only say that it has been one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences I have had; and that at the DPU I met the most passionate and brilliant people, which now I have the fortune to call colleagues and friends.