The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Prof Le-Yin Zhang

Prof Le-Yin Zhang

Professor of Urban Economic Development

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Sep 1997

Research summary

 Le-Yin has wide-ranging research interests, covering urbanisation, globalisation,climate change and macro-economic reforms and their effects on cities, the role of the state in economic development and global/world city formation, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries in general and their cities in particular.

Her current research activities focus on the low-carbon transition and its governmentality. 

Her research also investigates: 

1). The role of the state in urban low-carbon transitions 

2). Economic development strategies for cities

3). Municipal finance and green finance

Teaching summary

MSc level teaching: DEVP0018: Managing the City Economy (a 30-credit two-term core module of MSc Urban Economic Development)

PhD projects under her primary supervision:

  • Evaluating the Effects of Halal Standards and their Implementation on the Development of Halal Agro-food Businesses in the Context of Islamic Governance in Brunei
  • Back to the City Movement in Latin America: Assessing the economic impact of densification through repopulation of inner cities at the local level
  • Policy Learning at Work: Investigating the Development of Ethiopia's Industrial Zones Programme with Engagements from China
  • Assessing the effectiveness of Saudi Arabia National Renewable Energy Programme
  • Industrial Clusters Development in Egypt

Applications from prospective PhD students in the following research areas are welcome:

  1. Low-carbon transitions
  2. Urban economic development strategies
  3. Urban sustainability
  4. Green finance or municipal finance


University of London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1991


Le-Yin Zhang is a Professor of Urban Economic Development at the Development Planning Unit (DPU), UCL

She has a BSc (in Geography) from the Beijing Normal University and a PhD (in Planning Studies) from the Bartlett School of Built Environment, University College London.  

Before joining UCL in 1997, Le-Yin had previously worked on full-time basis for:Zhejiang Institute of Education, PRC; Constance University, Germany; University of Greenwich, UK.  She has also served as a consultant for a variety of international organisations and national and local governments (see Achievements for details).

She is a development economist specialised in economic development and management of cities.  Her publications range from inward foreign direct investment, industrialisation and clustering; Chinese economic reform and the central-local fiscal relationship; economic development in Shanghai; relationships between climate change and
industrialisation, the green economy, low-carbon transitions; and city development strategies (for a full publications list, go to the tab Publications above).  She is the author of Managing the City Economy: Challenges and Strategies in Developing Countries (Routledge,2015) and Conducting and Financing Low-carbon Transitions in China: A governmentality perspective (Edward Elgar, 2021), and a co-editor of Finance for City Leaders Handbook (UN-Habitat,2016).

She was a co-lead for Habitat III Policy Unit 7 (Urban Economic Development Strategies) (2015-16). She directed (1998-2014) and co-directed (2015-2021) the MSc in Urban Economic Development (and its predecessor) for 23 years.

She has teaching, research and consultancy experiences in mainland China, HongKong, Taiwan, Germany, Egypt, Iran, Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, as well as the UK.