The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


MSc Urban Economic Development

The MSc Urban Economic Development combines theory and practice to enhance productive, sustainable and inclusive urban economies with real-world urban policy challenges across the globe.

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

The MSc Urban Economic Development offers our students the skills, tools and critical thinking to design and engage in state of the art research and develop sound and creative approaches and partnership in pursuit of inclusive, prosperous and sustainable urban and regional development.

We offer:

  • A series of lectures, seminars, workshops, case studies and practice engagement related to urban development across the world – in higher, lower, and middle income countries 
  • The opportunity to develop creative and theoretically-derived perspectives to evaluate and guide policy thinking in support of productive, sustainable and inclusive urban economic development 
  • Tools to critically examine theoretical foundations of urbanisation and economic development, drawing on past experiences in managing city economies
  • Experience with critical assessment of micro- and macro-economic data, the analysis of urban economic activity and the application of economic criteria to urban development
  • A ‘live’ client project with leading public and private development organisations in London, where you will engage collectively with peers and tutors, co-creating innovative approaches to tackle urban challenges.

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Programme overview

The MSc Urban Economic Development is designed to train development practitioners to better understand the dynamics of the city economy and encourage them to develop their own theoretically-sound perspectives and world views on how to tackle urban challenges through state of the art research and creative policy formulation.

The course is strongly interdisciplinary, attracting participants from a range of academic backgrounds – including economics, architecture, and urban studies, among others – who share common values around social equity and environmental sustainability. On average, successful applicants have 3-5 years of professional experience, often in international development and local government administration. 

The MSc UED focuses on a range of contemporary themes in urban economic development. These include key debates around the role of governments in enhancing the performance of city economies, different approaches taken across countries and the policy trade-offs they entail; the challenges and opportunities of globalisation, liberalisation, decentralisation, digital technologies, and climate change for inclusive and sustainable regional economies; the impact of the global economy on patterns of urbanisation; the causes and consequences of inequality within cities;  and pathways towards ecological and circular economies.

Programme structure

How the MSc Urban Economic Development is structured.

The MSc Urban Economic Development is structured so that 75 per cent of the taught components (90 credits) is devoted to the core subjects of economics in urban development and managing the city economy, 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 course while the optional modules allow students to examine different approaches and issues in accordance with their own particular interests.

The course is delivered through lectures, seminars, workshops, case studies and practice engagements, and involves reading, essay writing and individual and group project work. Student performance is assessed through course work, examinations, and an individual dissertation report undertaken during the summer on a topic selected by the student.

UED structure

Practice engagements

The programme involves overseas practice engagements (undertaken in recent years in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico; Tarapoto, Peru; Mek'ele, Ethiopia; Mbarara, Uganda; and Accra, Ghana), as well as in the UK, allowing students to put into practice some of the tools and techniques acquired during the course.


Your options for study on the MSc Urban Economic Development.

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

Core modules

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.

DEVP0019 Practice in Urban Economic Development exposes students to contrasting practices of urban economic development to enable them to gain a better understanding of the process of managing local economic development in an urban context. 

DEVP0038 Urbanisation and Development addresses the prospect for development in a context of international trade and investment, with the role of the state and effects of policies as key underlying factors.

DEVP0040 An Introduction to Public Economics and Public Policy deals with identifying the most common market failures, the drivers of government failures and the interactions between economics and politics as constraints on the design of public policies.

DEVP0051 Economic Policy Evaluation Tools introduces methods and tools used by urban economic development policy makers and practitioners to evaluate policy, both before and after the policies and projects have been introduced. 

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

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. 

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. 

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. 

DEVP0012 Society and Market: Private Agency for Development explores 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.

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. 

DEVP0026 Food and the City looks at urban food security with long-term sustainability and resilience in face of crisis and extreme weather.

DEVP0027 Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South provides a critical examination of the historical evolution and the negative impact of industrial agriculture and its consequences for small holder urban and peri-urban food production and knowledge systems in the Global South.

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.

DEVP0033 Social Policy and Citizenship looks at socially sensitive development, which has its roots in the social sector and social welfare models that were developed during the last century. 

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.

DEVP0036 NGOs and Social Transformation focuses on the practice and politics of development NGOs. It explores how different NGOs are able to represent and be accountable to the beneficiaries of their projects and transform unequal power relations.


The MSc UED is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows renowned for their contribution to academic thinking and urban economic analysis in the context of city planning and urban management.


Programme Leaders

Dr Naji Makarem
View Naji Makarem's profile
Naji leads the Practice Module in Urban Economic Development. His research focuses on developing a just transition to inclusive, ecological and circular regional economies through community organisation, good governance, social entrepreneurship and enabling (old and new) technologies. 

Dr Alexandra Panman
View Alexandra Panman's profile
Alexandra teaches Introduction to Public Economics and Public Policy and The ‘Slum’ in Urban Economic Development. Her research focuses on land and housing, living standards in cities, and informal markets. 

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Jing Zhang
Jing generally supports the staff team on teaching, admission and other administration for the programme operation. She also undertakes her PhD research in DPU now, focusing on the nexus of industrialization and urbanization in Africa, political economy of policy process and south-south cooperation.

Staff currently teaching on the programme


Prof. Le-Yin Zhang
View Le-Yin Zhang's profile
Le-Yin teaches ‘Managing the City Economy’ module. Her research focuses on the role of the state in urban economic development and in addressing climate change.

Dr Margarethe Theseira
Margarethe brings her experience of delivering urban economic development programmes for governments and cities across the world to her teaching of the "London Project" at UCL. She is a member of the Mayor of London's infrastructure advisory panel and provided expert advice in the development of the London Industrial Strategy.  She is also a Senior Director in Strategic Consulting at Jacobs, one of the world's leading solutions providers.

Dr Alessio Koliulis
View Alessio Kolioulis' profile
Alessio teaches DEVP0038 Urbanisation and Development. His research interests fall within two themes: i) urbanisation and economic democracy; and ii) technological innovation and the creative industries.

Étienne von Bertrab
View Étienne von Bertrab's profile
Étienne teaches the optional module Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development (DEVP0024) and his academic and activist work focuses on environmental justice in Latin America. He is researcher and tutor in the practice engagement on the Tren Maya project in Mexico.

Carmen Abouamra
View Carmen Abouamra's profile
Carmen shares the graduate teaching assistant responsibilities with Jing Zhang; particularly, supporting the programme operations. Carmen is also working towards a PhD at the DPU, researching cities, migration, and gender and sexuality.

Careers and employability

For more information view our DPU Careers page

The MSc UED is widely recognised by international organisations and outfits, including UN agencies and the World Bank.

It is also recognised by bilateral aid organisations from different countries, including the UK's Department for International Development, as well as other government aid programmes; and by many national organisations.

The UED programme is a core course 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.

There is enormous variety in the careers UED 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 also diversity in the geographic location of UED alumni: some return to their home countries with the additional MSc qualification and engage in the practice, teaching or research of urban development there; others find employment in development organisations (from grassroots to multilateral tiers) away from their own countries.

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

Who should apply?

Our students come from dozens of countries, speak different languages and have a mix of experiences and skills. However, they all have something in common:
-    They have worked or intend to work professionally in the field of policy-making, implementation and consultancy that focus on the city economy and economic development in urban areas.
-    They want to acquire a critical understanding of the city economy and the capability to develop and formulate well-grounded sectoral and city development strategies
-    They are interested in exploring interdisciplinary approaches to achieving prosperity, equity and sustainability at the same time.
-    They are keen to learn from development experiences elsewhere and feel comfortable in engaging in theoretical and policy debates.
If this sounds like you, you are strongly encouraged to apply.

What our alumni say

Freddy Fashridjal
"After finishing the program, I felt astonished with how my knowledge significantly increased in just one year!"

Freddy Fashridjal 2017-18

Magdalena Leisten Johansson
"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"

Magdalena Leisten Johansson (2015-16)

More information