The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Magdalena Leisten Johansson


Completing my undergraduate studies in Architecture and Urban Planning was an important and proud moment in my life but left me feeling unfulfilled. Listening to my aspirations and ambitions, I knew that my professional and academic trajectory would take a different direction. It took me almost five years of work in research and data analysis in the private as well as public sector across Africa, Middle East, and Asia, before I figured out what that direction would be. 

I worked as a Researcher for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Afghanistan and then for the Swedish Trade and Investment Council. During this period, issues of rapid urbanization, regional and urban dynamics, including their potential for growth in Low Income and Fragile States, emerged as key interests. Firstly, I wanted to expand my knowledge in the field of Conflict, which led me to undertake my postgraduate degree in Internal and International Security in Poland. Following the completion, I was ready to apply to UCL to finally learn about Urban Economics. 

UCL MSc course in Urban Economic Development provided me with the perfect gateway to a career in international development. I gained a deep understanding of economic theories and their application, particularly in the areas of public economics, inclusive growth and development. In addition, it presented an opportunity to gain practical knowledge in policy recommendation through several projects, including a field study in Ghana. There, I conducted an in-depth economic analysis as part of a research team, which included interviews with local stakeholders to analyze the impact of the proposed Boankra Inland Port on the economy of the Kumasi in Ashanti regions. Being part of an international team enhanced students’ abilities to work as team members.

The single most important opportunity the course provided me with was that I had the pleasure of completing my dissertation on Intergovernmental Transfers and Regional Investment under the supervision of Prof. Antonio Estache. It was hard work and came with high expectations about the result. Nonetheless, I completed my studies with a distinction and UCL published my dissertation, which was incredibly rewarding. 

I would like to conclude by saying that thanks to the UED programme, I now have the right mix of experience and knowledge that enable me to contribute professionally in my new role as an Infrastructure Advisor in UK Department for International Development.

Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/magdalena-leisten-johansson-64267b1a/