The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


MSc Urban Development Planning

The MSc Urban Development Planning provides the analytical and practical tools to engage reflexively with urban development and planning challenges in the Global South.

View our 'Study at the DPU' page for information, guidance and resources for prospective applicants and offer-holders studying at the DPU in 2021/22.

Programme highlights

  • A critical sensibility to planning theory, methodologies and skills, and their application
  • An understanding of collective agency for planning and a focus on community-led processes in partnership with public and private sectors
  • A recognition of inequality, difference and diversity, and their implications for active citizenship, engagement with governance structures and planning
  • An awareness of scale and the importance of multi-scalar approaches that address the interaction between neighbourhood/local initiatives and city-wide planning, across time and space
  • A focus on strategic action planning, a theoretical and practice-oriented response to the socio-economic, spatial and ecological disparities faced by the Global South

Apply now

On this page

Programme overview

The MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) seeks to provide candidates with the analytical and practical tools to engage reflexively with the urban development and planning challenges thrown up by rapid social, economic and political change in the urban global south. 

The challenge for urban development planning is to respond to these problems, working with urban communities to transform cities into places where women and men of different classes, ethnic groups, religions and ages, can exercise real individual and collective choice in their lives. 

The MSc UDP aims to develop the capacity for critical diagnoses of the urban, as a basis for developing propositional responses within the framework of socially and spatially just urban governance.

Programme Structure

How the MSc Urban Development Planning is structured.

Core and Optional Modules

The programme consists of lectures, seminars, workshops, case study analysis  and practice engagement in London and abroad. Students are expected to play an active part in their learning through reading, participation in class activities and individual and group work. An important emphasis is placed on group work as a key aspect of a relational planning practice. 

The programme is structured so that 75 per cent of the taught components of the programme (90 credits) are devoted to the core subjects of Urban Development Planning and 25 per cent (30 credits) to an option from a range of modules on offer.

The core modules provide the theoretical and methodological components of the programme while the optional module allows students to examine different approaches and problems in accordance with their particular interests. Teaching takes place in the first two terms of the academic year (September to March) with the exception of the Practice in Urban Development Planning module which spans three terms (September to June).

A module is finalised once work is completed in all its elements of performance assessment, i.e. course work, essays, project reports and, where required, written exams.

UK practice engagement

The programme strives to embrace both theory and practice, with one of the three core modules being specifically practice-oriented. Students engage in a practice exercise in London equipping students with the knowledge, techniques and skills required on the ground from practitioners. The skills learnt are directly transferable to the overseas practice engagement which takes place later in the year.

During the first term (November) students also attend an intensive three-day residential workshop at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor with the rest of the DPU student body. This is a unique experience to work on a specific case study with experts from the field and in collaboration with students from across the DPU.

Overseas practice engagement

In the third term (May) students will undertake a two-week practice engagement in groups focussing on a city in the Global South. The purpose is to give hands-on experience of processes of urban change, community-led initiatives and policy challenges in the urban context of the Global South.

Students are asked to explore a given urban issue through teamwork and, after meeting with the stakeholders involved, produce recommendations for the institutions and communities present in the area of interest. Recent practice engagements have taken place in Cairo (Egypt), Accra (Ghana), Mumbai (India), Istanbul (Turkey), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

Dissertation Report

Students are required to write a report (60 credits) on a topic selected by themselves, bringing together debates and concerns in urban development planning. Examples of former reports include:

(1) The informal city, spaces of negotiation and citizenship in Southeast Asian cities. Requalifying slum upgrading at scale, the cases of Kampung Improvement Programme and Baan Mankong

(2) The progression of governance in Medellin, Colombia

(3) Exploring the difference in place-making.  The case of bad buildings and regeneration in the inner city of Johannesburg, South Africa

(4) The Right to the City: Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship among Pavement Dwellers in Mumbai, India


The three compulsory core modules run throughout the first and second terms, with the exception of one module (DEVP0030) which runs across all three terms.

For a full description of our modules, please visit the postgraduate modules page

Core modules

DEVP0028 The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning explores the economic, social and physical change of cities in the wider context of development and globalisation.

DEVP0029 Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management: Strategic Action in Theory and Practice explores strategic action in urban development policy, planning and management which recognises social justice in cities.

DEVP0030 Practice in Urban Development Planning provides students with real-life platforms to explore a number of the contemporary challenges of urban development planning and governance in practice.

Optional modules offered by UDP

(Please note that enrolment onto each module is subject to places being available)

DEVP0050 Gender in Policy and Planning is a module run over one term, examining gender relations in the socio-economic, political and environmental processes in the development of human settlements. 

DEVP0032 Transport Equity and Urban Mobility focuses on the relationships between social identity, transport and planning in the context of urban development in the Global South. It critiques and explores the implications for transport planning and its interaction with other kinds of planning, and the relationships between the state, civil society and private sector in the provision of transport for more socially just cities.

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

DEVP0002 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development provides a structured understanding of the forces that form and transform cities – particularly in countries of the global south – as well as the intellectual and theoretical bases for a recalibration of urban design praxis.

Students have also the occasion to touch ground through a London-based urban design exercise, in partnership with a relevant stakeholder. The module engages with critical transformative literature and specifically with alternative design approaches connected with literature of renewed philosophical and critical studies.

DEVP0003 Participatory Processes: Building for Development introduces the theories and concepts of participatory approaches and the processes in development and practice. It questions the nature and limits of participation and participatory design while engaging with case studies of collective and critical urban and spatial practices. 

DEVP0005 Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities provides a detailed examination and structured understanding of Disaster Studies and Disaster Risk Reduction, with specific reference to urban areas. It engages with extreme condition of disasters and their social, physical and political implications on urban areas, the built environment and planning disciplines.

Drawing from current research on the urban turn in Disaster Studies and the entanglements between Disaster Risk Reduction, Development processes and Urban Poverty, the module offers an introduction to the debate on urban resilience and its policy implications. 2015-16 tutor: Dr Cassidy Johnson

DEVP0001 Post Disaster Recovery: Policies, Practices and Alternatives provides a detailed and critical examination of post-disaster recovery practices and policies, with a particular focus on its institutional arrangements and socio-spatial implications.

Drawing from transnational research experiences and connections with practitioners, humanitarian workers and development managers, the module reflects on the different challenges posed when working in a post disaster environment and implementing plans, projects and interventions. 

DEVP0006 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives will suit students of diverse academic backgrounds and levels of professional experience. This studio-based module promotes the merits of existing project scenarios and a critical understanding of case-study analysis and research in design processes.

It focuses on how informal urban territories are constituted and imagined, and engages with a vast variety of urban materiality as a way to learn from existing experiences and reflect on design strategies that are able to deal with the complexities of the urban project.

DEVP0007 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces is the second Critical Urbanism Studio module. It builds upon the accumulated knowledge and conceptual framework of case study analysis (BENVGBU8) while focusing on a more profoundly phenomenological investigation into the multiplicity of contested developing arenas.

The module evolves around a real-life contemporary urban case study developed in collaboration with a partner in the Global South. It offers the platform to reason on a new aesthetics of informality and experiment with design research and strategies that reflect on the design process as act of critique, resistance, balance, while putting the poor at the centre of it. 

DEVP0011 Neo-Structuralism and the Developmental State considers differing conceptions of the state as a primary agent in social and economic development processes by examining case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

This module also seeks to familiarise the student with the opportunities and constraints posed by the global integrated process of production to planning for independent styles of development. Students are assessed with a written assignment. 

DEVP0012 Society and Market: Private Agency for Developmentexplores the theoretical base and implications for development planning and practice of market- and civil society-led approaches to development. It focuses on conceptions of ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’, livelihoods and ‘making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) approaches that permeate contemporary development policy and practice. Students are assessed with a written assignment.

DEVP0020 The Political Ecology of Environmental Change starts by providing a comprehensive review and critical analysis of the contemporary debate on development and environmental sustainability. 

DEVP0021 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development surveys environmental problems in urban areas and their underlying causes and identifies who contributes most to such problems and who is most affected by them.

DEVP0023 Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South aims to provide participants with an understanding of the ways in which climate change will affect urban areas in low- and middle-income countries. 

DEVP0024 Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Developmentexamines the different ways in which urbanisation is unfolding across the global South, with specific attention to the creation of infrastructures and the delivery of essential services. It explores the underlying causes of urban fragmentation, social exclusion and unsustainability. [Not running in 2014/15]

DEVP0025 Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politicsfocuses on the challenges of and opportunities for the adequate provision of urban water supply and sanitation. It examines innovative 'policy-driven' and 'needs-driven' approaches to the provision of the services, for and with the urban and peri-urban poor. 

DEVP0034 Social Diversity, Inequality and Poverty argues that social development is no longer confined to the 'social sector', but is increasingly defined more broadly as an approach that attempts to put 'people' and social equity at the centre of development initiatives across all sectors.

DEVP0018 Managing the City Economy enables participants to develop a critical understanding of the key components and operating dynamics of the city economy, and the factors that underlie urban productivity.



The MSc UDP is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows renowned for their constant contribution to academic thinking and urban development and planning in practice.

Programme Leaders

Dr Jordana Ramalho
View Jordana Ramalho's Profile

Tim Wickson
View Tim Wickson's profile

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Dana Sousa-Limbu
Send Dana Sousa-Limbu and email

Staff currently teaching on the programme

Dr Barbara Lipietz 
View Barbara Lipietz's Profile

Jorge Fiori
View Jorge Fiori's profile

Prof. Caren Levy
View Caren Levy's profile

Dr Colin Marx
View Colin Marx's Profile

Ruth Mcleod
View Ruth Mcleod's Profile

Dr Daniel Oviedo Hernandez
View Daniel Oviedo Hernandez's profile

Julian Walker
View Julian Walker's profile

Careers and employability

For more information view our DPU Careers page

MSc Urban Development Planning is widely recognised by both national and international organisations.

These include UN agencies and the World Bank; bilateral aid organisations from different countries, including the UK's Department for International Development, as well as other government aid programmes.

 UDP is a core programme at the Development Planning Unit and alumni benefit from the international respect enjoyed by DPU thanks to its expertise in and contribution to urban development and action planning globally.

There is enormous variety in the careers UDP graduates pursue, ranging from working with UK-based organisations in the public, private and community sectors that focus on local as well as international development, to employment with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations operating in a development capacity in the South.

A global network

There is wide geographic spread of UDP alumni: some return to their home countries with the additional MSc qualification and engage in the practice, teaching or research of urban development; others find employment in international development organisations (from grassroots to multilateral tiers) away from their own countries.

DPU boasts a global network of UDP alumni across many continents, countries and organisations, often facilitating that essential first introduction of a UDP graduate into employment.

For more on the potential of alumni pathways, read the reflections some of our Alumni have written on their career trajectories here.


DPU alumni can apply to fellowships and internships organized by the department. We currently have the ACHR/DPU/CAN Fellowship Programme and the SLURC Internship in place. 

The ACHR/DPU/CAN Fellowship Programme was developed in partnership with the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights (ACHR) and the Community Architects Network (CAN). This Fellowship Programme aims to offer experience and on-the-job training for junior development practitioners throughout Southeast Asia, while also supporting the development and use of methodologies and tools in community-driven processes for urban transformation. The Fellowship Programme is currently in its sixth wave, and our three research fellows are working remotely with our partner Arkomjogia in Indonesia to map and analyse the unequal effects of COVID-19 (and COVID-19 responses) on inhabitants of informal settlements in Yogyakarta. You can read more about this Fellowship Program and past activities here.

The SLURC Internship is based at the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), which was created through a partnership with the Institute of Geography and Development Studies (Njala University). This internship is an opportunity to build capacities for collaborative research in international and diverse teams on sustainable urban development. This year, six interns will be joining the remote overseas practice engagement of the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development programme, focusing on thematic strategic entry points for transformative change in Freetown: enhanced mobility, decentralized water and sanitation infrastructure and services, land and shelter tenure security, food security through urban agriculture, integrated solid waste management, and sustainable and equitable energy transitioning. You can read more about SLURC here.

For more information, please contact Barbara Lipietz - b.lipietz@ucl.ac.uk

Who should apply

The programme is designed for graduates and practitioners from diverse disciplinary, cultural and geographic backgrounds, who are interested in revisiting the role of planning (and the planner) in urban contexts. Blending theory and practice, we aim to equip graduates with the analytical and practical tools necessary to promote more socially, spatially and environmentally just responses to today's pressing urban challenges.

More information