UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Urban Futures and Prosperity

Availability & prerequisites

There are no specific pre-requisites.

Module Content

Cities increasingly shape global human experience, yet they continue to evolve in diverse ways, confounding standard urbanisation narratives and challenging us to consider the role of the urban in pathways to prosperous human futures. With cities becoming larger and more polluted, more diverse and more unequal, how can we work towards more prosperous urban life for all?

Rapid urbanisation on a global scale poses particular challenges to prosperity, including equality and political participation, adequate and equitable service provision, environmental sustainability within and beyond the city, as well as residents’ health and wellbeing. At the same time, the rich and diverse cultural, intellectual, social and economic life of cities makes them key incubators for new ideas addressing these challenges.

Using emerging theories of prosperity as a critical lens, the module focuses on the way urban futures have been imagined and can be implemented in attempts to tackle these problems and make cities better spaces for living for all. We will examine common narratives of urban development as part of a discourse of economic development from agriculture to industrialisation and consider new urban forms that confound this trajectory. We will explore historical and contemporary top-down approaches to urban planning such as garden cities, modernist planning and smart cities as well as bottom-up activities like transition towns, housing coops, formal and informal urban entrepreneurship and urban circular economy networks. We will consider how these initiatives envisage diverse pathways to prosperous urban futures, how these fit into broader narratives of social and urban development – and how they re-write them.

In tracing the diverse pathways to future cities developed by planners and policymakers as well as citizens, communities and social movements, we will learn how innovative experiments might be adapted and scaled up elsewhere. We will reflect in particular on how the physical aspects of urban planning intersect with social and organisational forms and how we can balance residents’ conflicting visions of the prosperous city.

Each topic will introduce relevant urban theoretical concepts as well as showcasing key practical case studies, drawing on the IGP’s wide range of urban research in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The module will utilise a range of online resources, classes and seminars.

In discussion and assessed work, students will further be encouraged to make links between their academic study, real-world issues, and their own lived experience in line with the connected curriculum.

The theoretical, empirical, and analytical tools offered in this module will equip students to become urban transition leaders who will contribute to cities that address the interdependent aspects of prosperity in cities across the world.

Illustrative Module Outline

  1. What is a Good City? Globalisation, Urbanisation and Prosperity
  2. Public Spaces and infrastructures: towards Universal Basic Services?
  3. Transport, (im)mobility and the (un)sustainable city
  4. Planning for cosmopolitanism? Diversity, migration and displacement
  5. Financing cities: housing, speculation and inequality
  6. Urban conflicts: division, violence, and securitisation
  7. Urban nature, health and wellbeing
  8. Building an identity or a brand? Arts, culture, and events
  9. Urban participation, change-making and the ‘Right to the City’