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Dmitry Sivaev

Dmitry recounts experiences of studying MSc Urban Economic Development at the Development Planning Unit

By that time I arrived at DPU in 2010 I had already developed a passion for cities. It dated back to the time around 2006-07 when I was an exchange student at the University of Oregon in the USA. I was lucky to have taken a class in Urban Economics taught by Professor Ed Whitelaw. The class was at 8:30am and I often struggled to arrive on time. But I can definitely say that it has changed my life. Ever since then I have been fascinated with a city as a complex system of human interactions and a hive of formal and informal activity that shapes our society, culture and economy.

While still finishing my undergraduate degree at Higher School of Economics in Moscow, I started working at the Institute for Urban Economics, one of the few research institutes in Russia that focused on urban development issues. My work there included analysis of real estate markets and the way they were regulated. I was also lucky to have worked on large urban planning projects including the Master Plan of Perm - a city with a million residents in the Urals region of Russia, in which I led the methodological support and data analysis.

My passion for cities has grown stronger as I kept gaining more experience in the field. But I also started to realize the complexity of cities and city economies. I felt that in order to advance on this career path I must further and deepen my understanding of city economies. I also wanted to learn more about institutions that shape our cities and international experiences of tackling economic development problems at city level.

That was what I was looking for when I made the decision to come and study at DPU. Fortunately that was precisely what I got from the UED course. I can easily say that the year at UCL was the most fascinating experience in my life. I had chances to learn from some of the greatest tutors I’ve ever met and be involved in some of the toughest and most intellectually challenging class debates I have ever came across. There were lots of hours spent in libraries as well as lots of great practical tasks that we tackled as groups.

I will never forget the nights when our group of 6 students spent hours debating in the lobby of our hotel in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region in Ethiopia as we were trying to understand and analyze the true nature of factors restricting urbanization in that area. That was tough. But it was the most unforgettable learning experience in my life. The journey to Ethiopia stood out as the highlight of my year at DPU. It was a 10-day-fieldtrip packed with hard work, meetings with extraordinary people, great time with classmates, and nature of irresistible beauty. I was fascinated to have experienced the Ethiopian culture so different, but so engaging.

I graduated from the UED confident in my professional knowledge as an urban economist and destined to be a city lover for life. I was fortunate to have secured an internship opportunity at the Centre for Cities, a London based policy and research institute that is dedicated to improving the economic performance of cities in the UK. Later on my internship turned into a permanent job and it has now been a year and a half since I became a part of the Centre for Cities’ team.

In this 18 months I have contributed to a number of exciting projects looking at contribution of small firms to London’s economy; benefits and shortcomings of the mayoral model of city governance; innovation potential of Coventry and a number of others. The most memorable project was the study of the economic legacy of the London Game 2012. This piece of work was a continuation of my UED Masters Thesis. I continued this strand of work at the Center for Cities and the final report was published a day after the Paralympics Closing Ceremony and was covered in the national newspapers and on BBC Radio 4. Today I can proudly say that I enjoy my job. I keep falling deeper in love with cities, and I keep learning more and more about them every day.

26 March 2013