MSc in Sustainable Urban Development

Course details


In 2020 the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development celebrates its tenth anniversary. Over the past 10 years, more than 190 students and alumni have been part of the programme, from over 55 countries worldwide.



The two-year MSc in Sustainable Urban Development will provide you with a rigorous and critical understanding of the policy and practice of sustainable urban development. The course exposes students to sustainable urbanism as both an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary subject at global and local scales.

Attention is paid to the intellectual history of sustainable urban development, its current and future applications and practice, and the contemporary relevance of research to sustainable urban policy and practice across the world.

The over-arching aim of the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development (MSUD) reflects that of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, namely to provide students with a systematic understanding of core areas and advanced topics in sustainable urban development, the ability to evaluate empirical or primary evidence critically, and the conceptual understanding to marshal and present arguments and solutions based on primary data, theory and/or the application of sound reasoning.

More specifically, the MSUD aims to provide students with:

  • development;
  • a multidisciplinary structure that engages with world-leading research to the benefit of students’ professional practice;
  • an international understanding and knowledge of sustainable urban development;
  • an engagement with the academic excellence of the University of Oxford.

Who the course is for

The programme attracts a lively and engaged group of students, who combine postgraduate study with their professional lives, and an active alumni network. Students on the course come from a wide international background and share a variety of work experiences in urban development and the built environment. The MSc is designed for those working in a range of urban contexts worldwide - public, private or third sector organisations - and fosters collaboration, creativity, perspective-sharing and effective networking skills.


The course is delivered by tutors from institutes and departments across the University of Oxford, and in collaboration with comprehensive range of commercial, governmental and non-government organisations specialising in sustainable urban development

Partnership and accreditation

The programme runs in partnership with The Prince's Foundation, and is an accredited course within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors University Partnership.



Programme details


The course is delivered through a mix of tailored teaching and learning methods, including seminars, site visits, peer-review, research workshops and tutorials. Classes are seminar-based, encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other. You will prepare for sessions by reading a selection of recommended books, book chapters and articles. Typically, there are six to eight weeks between each teaching week, during which time you should expect to spend an average of 15 hours per week of independent study.


The course comprises four elements:

  • core themes
  • urban theory
  • research methods
  • the dissertation

You will attend eight intensive residential teaching weeks during the two years of study. Two of these eight teaching weeks are held at the offices of The Prince's Foundation in London. The remaining six are held in Oxford at the Department for Continuing Education. Each week addresses a core theme of the course.

Year 1

  • Introducing Sustainable Urban Development (Oxford)
  • Climate Change and the Built Environment (Oxford)
  • Place-making and Urban Design (London)
  • Financing Sustainability (Oxford)
  • Sustainable Transport (Oxford)

Year 2

  • Urbanism, Community and City-Building (London)
  • Urbanisation in the Global South (Oxford)
  • Leadership, Governance and Future Cities (Oxford)

During teaching weeks, you will also follow foundation courses in urban theory and research methods tailored to sustainable urban development, comprising sessions on the intellectual history of sustainable urbanism, paradigm shifts and challenges in sustainable development, urban economics, research design, research ethics and preparation, bibliography and library resources.

Assessment methods

For each teaching week, you will complete an essay of up to 3,000 words on that theme. The first essay is formative and will provide you with valuable feedback at the start of your studies. The remaining seven essay assignments are summative.

You will spend the latter half of the second year working on a 15,000-word research dissertation. You will define your own dissertation topic, with the guidance of your supervisor, and, in most cases, spend time doing fieldwork and gathering data during this period. Training in research skills is built into the course delivery, in order to help you make the most of this opportunity.

On-course support

You will be allocated a course supervisor who will support your academic development, and with whom you will meet during each teaching week. In the second year, you will be allocated a dissertation supervisor from the course team. You will also have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.



Dr Nihan Akyelken

Role: Associate Professor

Keywords: Transport and mobility; inequalities and development planning; infrastructure investments; labour markets and urban accessibility; urban and regional political economy and governance.


Dr Idalina Baptista

Role: Associate Professor

Keywords: African urbanization; urban planning and governance; energy infrastructure; urban theory.


Dr Patricia Canelas

Role: Departmental Lecturer

Keywords: Planning and governance; real estate; place-making.


Dr Debbie Hopkins

Role: Associate Professor

Keywords: Transport and mobilities; sustainable tourism; low carbon transitions; work and labour; infrastructures; energy systems.


Dr David Howard

Role: Director of Studies and Associate Professor

Keywords: Latin American and Caribbean urbanization; social sustainability; housing and urban livelihoods.


Dr Nigel Mehdi

Role: Course Director and Departmental Lecturer

Keywords: Economics of sustainability; urban economics; real estate markets, smart cities and big data.


Dr Vlad Mykhnenko

Role: Associate Professor

Keywords: Urban and regional economies; shrinking cities; resilience; economic convergence, divergence and territorial cohesion; fiscal federalism, devolution and local government finance.


Mr Ben Bolgar

Role: Tutor

Keywords: Eco towns; green buildings; placemaking; urban regeneration; traditional urbanism and rapid urbanisation.


Dr Matthew Hardy

Role: Tutor

Keywords: Sustainable urbanism; urban resilience; European architectural history and climate.


IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.


The Department offers a full residential and catering facility, with a range of both 3 and 4-star campus accommodation. 'Number 12', right next to Rewley House, offers 9 superior en-suite bedrooms.

Accommodation costs are not included in course fees. All students can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme. See the Facilities and Services pages for more detail.


Fee rates for the academic year 2020-21

These rates (in pounds sterling) are for students joining in the 2020-21 academic year and will increase annually.

An Annual Award Fee is due for every academic year (or part-year) attended, and there is a minimum of two Annual Award Fees payable. Module or Dissertation Fees are payable in advance as invoiced. A Module Fee is payable in respect of each teaching week. The Dissertation Fee is comprised of three Module Fees. Fees must be paid in accordance with the Terms and Conditions for the programme.

Annual Award Fee: £8,780

Module Fee: £1,930

Dissertation Fee: £5,790

Illustration for full programme (completing in two years, with eight teaching weeks and a dissertation)

Year 1:

Annual Award Fee: £8,780 (see notes 1 and 2)

Plus 5 Module Fees: £9,650 (see notes 1 and 2)

Total Year 1: £18,430

Year 2:

Annual Award Fee: £8,780 (see notes 1 and 2)

plus 3 Module Fees: £5,790 (see notes 1 and 2)
plus Dissertation Fee: £5,790 (see notes 1 and 2)

Total Year 2: £20,360 (see notes 1 and 2)

Total: £38,790 (see notes 1 and 2)


  1. The fee rates listed are for the academic year shown, and you should be aware that these rates will increase annually.
  2. The Illustration is based on the fee rates for the academic year shown; however, fee rates for attendance in future years will increase, so students attending for more than one year should expect the total to be higher than is shown in the Illustration. The exact amount will depend on the fee rates set annually, and upon the years you are in attendance; these are normally published well before the start of each academic year, but for your own budgetary purposes you may wish to estimate a 6% annual increase on fee rates.
  3. MSc students are matriculated and are full members of the Collegiate University.


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our Fees and Funding page.

The MSc Sustainable Urban Development Programme Scholarship is open to anyone applying for the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.

"It was the scholarship offer from Oxford University that made my continued academic pursuit possible."

"Being awarded the MSc Sustainable Urban Development Programme Scholarship has changed my life. Without it, taking part in this fantastic programme was something I found extremely difficult. This scholarship meant much more than enabling me to commit to studying without additional worries, it was also about an amazing Oxford experience, the network I was able to create, and the numerous options that are now open to me."

"The scholarship enabled me to attend the uniquely tailored course with peers from diverse backgrounds most of who I am still in touch with. It exposed me to critical theoretical concepts of urbanism while inculcating the habit of rigorous academic writing which I have thoroughly enjoyed."

"I am profoundly grateful to this scholarship for the opportunity given to me to become a student on the MSc Programme and for the change that it brought to my life by allowing me to study under the guidance of a truly world-caliber faculty. The scholarship is an imperative for bringing the knowledge to wider groups of prospective students."

"The MSc course, and scholarship, have been instrumental in helping me to better situate my expertise within the wider disciplines of sustainability and urban development."

The MSc in Sustainable Urban Development Sheehan Scholarship is also open to anyone applying for the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.

Overseas students are eligible to apply for a Clarendon Fund Scholarship.