UCL Urban Laboratory


Global Urbanism MASc

Our Master of Arts and Sciences degree will equip you with the critical skills and specialist knowledge to operate as an urbanist in today's global environment, collaborating across sectors to tackle urgent challenges and shape fairer cities.

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About the programme | Teaching and learningCareers and EmployabilityWhy choose UCL Urban Lab?Teaching team and contacts | Scholarships


  • Benefit from UCL’s world-leading reputation in urbanism across disciplines and professions, and its extensive research experience from across the urban world 
  • Build critical understandings of global urbanism through immersive engagement, specialising in the highly globalised context of London, and in selected international cities. 
  • Enjoy a collaborative, immersive, case-study based approach to learning, grounded in selected urban environments, and in the ethos of transdisciplinary studios, where the arts, humanities, social sciences and built environment disciplines intersect. 
  • Work with local and international partners in a bespoke setting designed for transdisciplinary education, including a new public engagement space, the UCL Urban Room at UCL East. 
  • Be guided by faculty who are leaders in the advancement of innovative, ethical, transdisciplinary approaches to global urbanism. 
  • Proactively shape your assessed projects, bringing in your own skills and experiences, taking the opportunity to submit work in multiple media, and which develops from, and enhances, your creativity. 
  • Gain rigorous training for careers and advanced professional development in urban and built environment fields, building specialist transferrable skills in urban practice (such as design, development, governance, heritage, community participation, planning, policy). 

About the programme

Cities are complex, diverse, and globally interconnected. To develop insights on global urban experiences and respond to contemporary challenges we need to collaborate and build knowledge across often very different locations, and to draw on multiple academic disciplines, professions and communities. The Bartlett’s Global Urbanism MASc is the first urban Master’s degree to radically cut across arts, humanities, social sciences and built environment disciplines, giving you the opportunity to specialise in urbanism as a challenge-driven and practice-oriented transdisciplinary field.  
Drawing from the distinctive breadth of UCL’s urban expertise, the programme will equip you with state-of-the-art knowledge of urbanism – a term that embraces the social and cultural life of cities, and the numerous approaches and practices which set out to understand and shape urban futures. You will graduate with the ability to draw from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, conceptual frameworks, methods, and practices. You will have  the tools to engage across diverse cities and lead in a variety of roles in urban policy, research and practice. 
The MASc offers a choice of two pathways, Global Studio or London Studio. In addition to a shared core curriculum, each pathway offers you the opportunity to build your critical understandings of global urbanism, specialising either in the highly globalised urban context of London, or in a selected international partner city. You will learn in a collaborative and experimental research setting, engaging with your environs and the university’s local and international partners.   
Your education in the methods of urban research, and the ethics and practice of global urbanism, will be inspired by the fabric of cities: you will learn from the people who live in them, the concepts and techniques that have emerged to shape and interpret them, and the cultures that forge new possibilities for them.  
The programme will be delivered by UCL Urban Laboratory as part of The Bartlett at UCL East, in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, east London – an area that has undergone huge and rapid change since the 1980s, and is unrivalled in the opportunity it offers to study the dynamics of urbanization. Staff and students will be based at UCL East, in a purpose-designed environment for transdisciplinary postgraduate research. One of the new facilities at UCL East is UCL Urban Room, to which students will have priority access. You will take advantage of the resources and initiatives centered in this space as you develop your expertise in collaboration with partners and present your original research to public audiences. Urban Lab, the UCL Urban Room and UCL East all prioritise links to industry, professional built environment practice, community-based, public and cultural organisations and UCL’s East Bank partners. Students’ research projects will be developed by drawing on UCL’s and the Urban Laboratory’s established networks. 

Applications for the 2024/2025 academic year are now open. 

Check here for information about Urban Lab's Ruth Glass ScholarshipBartlett Promise scholarships (UK and Sub-Saharan Africa), and British Council Commonwealth Scholarships.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Joe Penny, Lecturer in Global Urbanism, UCL Urban Laboratory: joe.penny@ucl.ac.uk

Apply here

Teaching and learning

The MASc provides two pathways, Global Studio/London Studio. These include opportunities to build critical understandings of global urbanism, specialising either in the highly globalised urban context of London, or in selected international partner cities. Students take a set of shared core modules, and with guidance you will select your studio pathway during Term 1.
You will learn through a mix of lectures and seminars taking a blended approach, with a combination of face-to-face and online teaching and learning, presentations, site visits, tutorials, engagement in the UCL Urban Room (e.g. workshops, exhibition and object-based learning), individual and group projects, collaboration with international students and staff in a partner city, and supervised independent research.  London-based site visits will be a component of teaching for students on both pathways. Initially, in in the 2022/23 academic year, the Global Studio will be focussed on Johannesburg, through a partnership with University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. The partnership will include shared online teaching and a fieldtrip is planned in term 2, depending on foreign travel guidance at the time. For contingency and in case students are unable to participate in the fieldtrip for medical or personal reasons, an the programme will offer an alternative blended format.  London
In the first term all students will take two shared core modules, one module from their chosen studio pathway and one elective module. In the second term all students will take one shared core module, two modules from their chosen studio pathway and one elective module. In the third term all students will complete their own original research in the dissertation module. You will be able to select modules from the parallel studio pathway as one of your elective modules (these are marked with an asterisk * below), as well as from a wider portfolio of electives at UCL East. 

Shared core modules

Global Urbanism: Theory and Politics (15 credits, term one) URBL0001

Urban theory is an important component of ‘urbanism’ - ways of coming to know and experience the urban. This course will introduce students to the state of the art in global urban studies, focussing on theoretical debates concerning the nature of global urbanisation and ways in which understandings of the urban must be produced across diverse urban experiences. A critical engagement with theoretical traditions in urban studies will inform analyses of the power relations and broad ethical challenges of how concepts and theory inform urban practice. Critical attention will be given to the circulations of knowledge in global urban design, policy and development. This will form a foundation for the themes addressed in the parallel shared Term 1 core course, which focuses on methodologies for producing urban knowledge, ‘Engaged Urbanism’. 

Engaged Urbanism (15 credits, term one) URBL0002

Engaged Urbanism focuses on the methods which we can use to understand urban life and culture, in order to advance urban knowledge, and make positive interventions in the planning, design, and management of human settlements. The module emphasises modes of collaboration across disciplines, and between silos of knowledge, bringing theory and practice into productive interaction. It integrates material from a wide range of disciplines which feature the urban (e.g. anthropology, architecture, art history, engineering, fine art, heritage studies, literature, philosophy, planning, sexuality studies and urban history). It demonstrates the importance of knowledge produced outside traditional academic environments, incorporating examples of successful collaborations between academics, professional groups, community-based organisations, artists, activists, and others. The module prepares students to develop an engaged, hands-on approach to urbanism that is sensitive to local contexts and employs critical, collaborative, interactive and participatory methods. 

Cities Methodologies (15 credits, term 2) URBL004

This module forms a pair with Term 1’s Engaged Urbanism, providing the opportunity for students to develop and experiment further with the practical aspects of methodology and research design, including framing a research question, choosing and specifying methods, ethical procedures and requirements, project management, the realization and dissemination of research outputs and anticipation of audiences and impacts. Students will be supported to design and pilot a piece of urban research that is experimental, collaborative, considers local and global scales, and bridges between traditionally separate forms of knowledge, expertise and evidence. In line with the ethos of UCL’s East campus, the focus will be on hands-on, engaged urban research that takes risks and, in collaboration with communities and/or partners, seeks to intervene towards fairer cities and outcomes. Students submit an illustrated portfolio for critical appraisal including their proposal, research design, indicative sources and pilot research completed during the course. 

London Studio core modules

East London Lab (15 credits, term one) URBL0003

Extending from the idea that East London is a ‘city inside a city’ (Young and Willmott, 1957), this module uses East London as a living lab to understand London through a transdisciplinary lens, taking into account architecture, the arts, the built environment, culture, demographics, economy, environment, geography, governance, history, politics and urban planning. Through talks and site visits, and the use of the UCL East Urban Room and Memory Archive, students are exposed to UCL’s heritage of work and key thinkers on London, its collections and current approaches. The module is taught through a series of lectures and guided site visits in East London. It includes studio/lab work, presentations and tutorials, where students present, discuss and receive feedback leading to a multimedia project. Students will complete the module with an in-depth and transferable understanding of the redevelopment of East London in its local and global dimensions, and the ways these have been accounted for in a diversity of academic fields, current trends and future trajectories. 

Histories of Global London, 1900 to the present - Part One (15 credits, term 2) * URBL0010

This module focuses on understanding how London’s built environment has been shaped by its global connections and associated population flows, from 1900 to the present. It considers the changing framework of urban governance, architectural and community development at a number of definitive moments, such as the publication of the County of London Plan (1943), the dissolution of the Greater London Council in 1986, the establishment of the Greater London Authority and Mayor of London in 2000, and approaches to culture and the built environment under the current mayor, Sadiq Khan. The module draws on a multiplicity of sources to analyse urban regeneration and gentrification. It looks at the formation of particular places through the influence of minoritised communities, cultural practices and intangible heritage. It positions the city’s global, colonial histories and its social diversity as central to a critical understanding of its urban and architectural heritage and future. The module asks students to engage critically with questions such as: how do we assess urban and architectural heritage as a social, cultural and economic asset for urban development in complex multicultural and/or postcolonial cities (UNESCO 2011)? Within urban and architectural practice, how are heritage and culture implicated in contested redevelopment? Participants engage with key debates in the history and theory of urban change in relation to histories of urban social movements, theories of the global city, identity and inclusion, and critical heritage.  

Histories of Global London, 1900 to the present Part One and Two (30 credits, term 2) URBL0009

This module is taken in combination with Histories of Global London, 1900 to the present - Part One and extends its preoccupations through an in-depth focus on site-based methods, with a specific emphasis on ethnographic, oral, visual and archival sources. Part 2 provides students with the opportunity to undertake archival research and/or fieldwork/digital fieldwork in relation to a London site, or a site connected to London. Students will produce an expanded text-based and illustrated coursework project, including a proposal to present their findings to a public audience in a format of their choosing. 

Global Studio core modules

Cities Studio (15 credits, term 1) * URBL0005

The core aims of this module are to develop your skills in building understanding of unfamiliar urban contexts. Through a critical engagement with scholarship grounded in specific cities, students will have the opportunity to acquire detailed knowledge of, and insights into, urbanisation and urban experiences. The course will involve active engagement with the history and challenges of partner cities – initially the programme links to Johannesburg – alongside selected other cases. Themes will be drawn from existing scholarship, as well as from policy challenges, urban political issues, cultural practice and design and planning innovations. A wide variety of sources will be interrogated through workshops and studio activities, including academic and policy documents, empirical studies, data of various types, maps, visual, artistic and cultural productions.

Global Urban Theory Lab (15 credits, term 2) * URBL0006

This module supports students in building conceptual insights relevant to the diversity of urban contexts across the globe. It will involve students in an active process of theoretical critique and concept development related to selected themes in urban studies. A key initial focus will be on the diverse, fragmented and dispersed form of urban settlements, and the implications of this for urban governance, with a specific focus on the Gauteng City Region in South Africa. This course will be presented as a combination of a MOOC for online study (with fully open external access), supported by online collaborations with partner city students and staff using the university’s digital platforms, and online or face-to-face tutorials for UCL students.  

City Co-Labs (15 credits, term 2) URBL0007

This module involves collaboration with different actors and organisations in selected partner cities to address dedicated research, design and problem-solving briefs. It will include interaction with staff and students from partner city institutions and reinforce learning from across the MASc programme with multi-disciplinary approaches and practices. It will build core skills in the ethics of global urban practice through a pedagogy and practice which supports the engaged and collaborative production of urban knowledge, policy and interventions. Online and/or in situ methods of collaboration will enable working with different actors e.g. government, communities, private sector, international agencies. The assignment will include a portfolio showing results of the collaboration, for critical appraisal; and a combined group project report in response to the collaboration brief. 

Optional Modules

You will be able to choose two optional modules from the list below or marked with an asterisk * from the Studio pathways above.

  • London: Aspects of Change 
  • Civic Design BPLN0103

UCL East suite of modules:

  • Find Your Future
  • Inclusive Design and Environments
  • Innovation for a Fairer World
  • Exploring Power, Inclusion and Exclusion with Local Communities
  • Sustainability and Decision-making
  • Protecting and Managing Creative Content
  • Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice

Dissertation URBL0008

The final project for obtaining the MASc qualification is the Dissertation undertaken in term 3 (60 credits). Students design and realise an original research project on London, one of the partner cities, or an agreed alternative, using an innovative methodology of engaged urbanism. You will choose the particular focus of your research and will agree on a research question and fieldwork strategy with your supervisor and the Programme Director. Topics can include issues related to planning, urban design, heritage, culture, ecology, infrastructure, and social, economic and political matters. Students will be expected to reflect on the impact of their research and on the connections to practice, different communities or interest groups. Students will develop methodologies that are transdisciplinary, experimental and collaborative. Through an agreed fieldwork plan, you can link your Dissertation to your professional practice or another live context.  

Careers and Employability

This programme will train an emerging generation of urbanists to undertake advanced, experimental, collaborative research, driven by the pressing agendas set by the Sustainable Development Goals and other international policy and practice directives. Graduates will be qualified to address the complexity of cities and urbanization creatively, and the global challenges and potentials that they present. 

This MASc provides the relevant skills and knowledge for those working in, or aiming to develop a career in, built environment and urban policy and practice positions that require a sophisticated understanding of the contexts and complexity of urban challenges and development in cities internationally. Graduates will be suited to a wide range of urban and built environment careers that engage with processes of urban change and design, community participation, inclusive urban development and governance. The creative problem-solving, analytical, collaboration and presentation skills which you will develop will also provide a good preparation for doctoral study and professional research positions.  Based on alumni data from related programmes linked to the Urban Laboratory, graduates have gone on to lead in careers such as municipal and local government, the built environment professions, urban political organisations, art consultancies, financial services, social enterprise companies, cultural and heritage institutions, community development organisations and think-tanks; as well as pursuing doctoral research in a wide range of prestigious higher education institutions internationally. 

Why choose UCL Urban Lab?

The programme is hosted and delivered by UCL Urban Laboratory (a cross-disciplinary department of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment) at UCL East. The QS World University Rankings (2021) places The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment as the #1 for Architecture/Built Environment studies in the UK and #2 in the World.  You will benefit from and contribute to UCL Urban Laboratory’s track record of advancing engaged, critical and creative urban research, teaching and public engagement over nearly two decades. 

Urban Lab’s cross-disciplinary activities focus on intervention and experimentation across different epistemologies and practices, whether through community collaboration, design, policy, or historical and theoretical engagement. The programme provides the opportunity to engage with innovative methodologies, theories and practices developed at UCL and grounded in the university’s history of radical, engaged, ground-breaking research on, in and for London.

Students will be based at UCL East: a dynamic transdisciplinary postgraduate research environment. One of the new facilities at UCL East is a new Urban Room and Memory Workshop, and students will take advantage of the resources centred in this space as they develop and present their original research. Urban Lab, the Urban Room and Memory Workshop and the Bartlett at UCL East all prioritise links to industry, professional built environment practice, community organisations and UCL’s East Bank partners.  

Teaching team and contacts

Dr Joe Penny, Programme Director joe.penny@ucl.ac.uk (primary contact for informal enquiries)
Prof Nishat Awan, Lecturer in Global Urbanism n.awan@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Njogu Morgan, Lecturer in Global Urbanism n.morgan@ucl.ac.uk

Prof Clare Melhuish, Urban Laboratory Director  clare.melhuish@ucl.ac.uk 
Prof Ben Campkin, Urban Laboratory Co-Director b.campkin@ucl.ac.uk 
Prof Jennifer Robinson, Urban Laboratory Co-Director, Professor of Geography Jennifer.Robinson@ucl.ac.uk
Dr Pablo Sendra, Associate Professor of Planning and Urban Design Pablo.Sendra@ucl.ac.uk

Admissions enquiries

UCL Graduate Admissions