The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Nicholas Smith

After gaining my bachelor’s degree in Architecture at the University of Bologna, Italy, I had a couple of unsatisfactory work experiences which made me wonder whether I should consider my academic path successfully complete or perhaps re-open that door towards further studies.

I didn’t want to continue with a MArch or other design-oriented programmes, I was looking for a way to expand my knowledge in areas that I was passionate about but never had the chance to approach.

I wanted to move towards Economics and I always had this curiosity about how our cities function in terms of dynamics, economic activities, policy making. As an architecture graduate, I always found the built environment fascinating and I wanted to be capable of understanding its inner economic mechanisms as well.

The MSc in Urban Economic Development at UCL is a fantastic program which prepares you as a professional able to work in a great variety of fields revolving around cities. From infrastructure, housing, economic development, government policies to cities’ strategies and competitiveness and their role in the global economy, the program is extremely comprehensive and impactful.

I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in class directly on the field. The field trip we took in Ethiopia has really been an eye opener on the challenges that cities face in the developing world and how important it is to be able to steer economic development.

On a more personal note, a couple of days after graduating from the program I got my first job while on the plane on my way home. I had met my future employer who happened to be sitting next to me and after a quick chat about my studies on UED he offered me a job, which I took. I had been working in the Middle East managing exports for an Italian company and later on moved to a different company covering the same position in Northern Europe.

I did not have the physical time to stop and think about how my career was to evolve, what I think I want to share with you is how even private companies and businesses outside the development spectrum highly appreciate the value of this program. In my case it gave me an incredible advantage compared to the other candidates and I think the reason is that UED equips you with the tools to face modern intricate economic issues in a sound, solid, research-based and evidence driven way.

I am now training to become a commercial pilot, nothing to do with UED but just my childhood dream becoming reality. I honestly believe that my year spent studying UED has been the most enriching, eye opening academic year of my life and I am grateful to my course director to having played such a big role in shaping my mind as a young adult.