MSc in Sustainable Urban Development
In 2020 the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development celebrated 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 MSc in Sustainable Urban Development is a part-time course taken over two years, and is designed to suit those working in a range of urban contexts worldwide. The course provides a rigorous and critical understanding of the policy and practice of sustainable urban development.
MSc students engage with 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 course involves eight intensive residential teaching weeks, six in Oxford and two in London. Students also undertake independent study and complete written assignments, including a 15,000-word research dissertation on a chosen topic.
The course is delivered by tutors from institutes and departments across the University of Oxford, and in collaboration with a comprehensive range of commercial, governmental and non-government organisations specialising in sustainable urban development. The programme runs in partnership with The Prince's Foundation, and is an accredited course within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) University Partnership.
- Who is this course for?
- How you will study
- The course in detail
- Associated organisations
- Oxford college affiliation
- Teaching staff
- Resources and facilities
- Application details – including when to apply, fees, funding and entry requirements
- Contact information and mailing list
- Student spotlights
Who is this course for?
The MSc is designed for those working in a range of urban contexts worldwide, whether in public, private or third sector organisations. Students are able to combine postgraduate study with their professional lives. The course attracts a lively and engaged group of students, who come from a wide range of countries and share a variety of work experiences in urban development and the built environment. The course fosters collaboration, creativity, perspective-sharing and networking skills. There is also an active alumni network.
While the MSc in a stand-alone qualification, it can also be used to prepare students to undertakes doctoral work – for instance, by progressing to the Department's part-time DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development.
Watch this short video where students describe their experiences on the MSc course:
How you will study
The MSc includes eight intensive residential teaching weeks, six in Oxford and two in London. The course is delivered through a mix of teaching and learning methods, including seminars, site visits, peer review, group 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, and you should expect to spend an average of 20 hours per week on independent study.
You will be allocated a course tutor who will support your academic development, and who you will meet during each teaching week. In the second year, you will be allocated a dissertation supervisor from the course team.
The course in detail
The course aims 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
- the conceptual understanding to marshal and present arguments and solutions based on data, theory and the application of sound reasoning.
Course content and structure
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.
- Introducing Sustainable Urban Development (Oxford)
- Climate Change and the Built Environment (Oxford)
- Place-making and Urban Design (London)
- Financing Sustainability (Oxford)
- Sustainable Transport (Oxford)
- 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.
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. Training in research skills is built into the course delivery, in order to help you make the most of this opportunity.
The programme runs in partnership with The Prince's Foundation, and is an accredited course within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors University Partnership.
Oxford college affiliation
As a matriculated postgraduate degree student, you will become a member of one of the University’s famous interdisciplinary colleges, enabling you to encounter new perspectives in your field or learn more about many other different subjects from fellow college members.
The collegiate system makes studying at Oxford a truly special experience. Oxford colleges are small, intimate communities, where you could find yourself absorbed in fascinating conversations with students and academics from a variety of disciplines at college seminars, dinners, and informal occasions.
For a list of colleges that accept students on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development please see the 'college preference' tab on the Graduate Admissions course page.
To find out more about Oxford University colleges, please consult the University's Graduate Admissions website.
The MSc is delivered by tutors from institutes and departments across the University of Oxford, and in collaboration with a comprehensive range of commercial, governmental and non-government organisations specialising in sustainable urban development.
Departmental teaching staff are listed below, with full details available on our MSUD academic staff page.
Dr Nigel Mehdi, Co-Course Director and Departmental Lecturer
Keywords: Economics of sustainability; urban economics; real estate markets, smart cities and big data.
Dr Patricia Canelas, Co-Course Director and Departmental Lecturer
Keywords: Planning and governance; real estate; place-making. Planning and governance; real estate; place-making.
Other core teaching staff
Dr Nihan Akyelken, Associate Professor
Keywords: Transport and mobility; inequalities and development planning; infrastructure investments; labour markets and urban accessibility.
Dr Idalina Baptista, Associate Professor
Keywords: African urbanization; urban planning and governance; energy infrastructure; urban theory.
Dr Desiree Daniel-Ortmann, Departmental Lecturer
Keywords: Resilience, power dynamics, sustainable land management, relational values and nature's contribution to people, blockchain technology, social and formal ontology.
Dr Francesca Froy, Departmental Lecturer
Keywords: Urban morphology, evolutionary economic geography, governance, skills, network analysis.
Dr Debbie Hopkins, Associate Professor
Keywords: Transport and mobilities; sustainable tourism; low carbon transitions; work and labour; infrastructures; energy systems.
Dr David Howard, Director of Studies and Associate Professor
Keywords: Latin American and Caribbean urbanization; social sustainability; housing and urban livelihoods.
Dr Pedro Marques, Departmental Lecturer
Keywords: Regional development, public policy, institutions, governance, innovation, industrial policy.
Dr Vlad Mykhnenko, Associate Professor
Keywords: Urban and regional economies; shrinking cities; resilience; economic convergence, divergence and territorial cohesion; fiscal federalism.
Dr Matthew Hardy, Tutor
Keywords: Sustainable urbanism; urban resilience; European architectural history and climate.
Mr Ben Bolgar, Tutor
Keywords: Eco towns; green buildings; placemaking; urban regeneration; traditional urbanism and rapid urbanisation.
Resources and facilities
The course aims to enable students to make the most of the University’s resources (e.g. its libraries and computer facilities), to provide a high quality of academic and pastoral support, and to maximise the potential for learning within a peer group.
All students can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar at Rewley House, where they may relax and network with others on the programme. See Facilities and Services at the Department for more details.
Students will have access to the electronic online resources of Oxford University's Library Services, including the Bodleian Library, and all other University libraries. Students, using their University card, can also use the in-person facilities of the Bodleian Libraries.
IT requirements and facilities
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.
Accommodation costs are not included in course fees however the Department offers a full residential and catering facility in Oxford. All bedrooms are en suite and decorated to a high standard and there is a self-contained bedroom suite on the ground floor, equipped for use by people with mobility problems with an adjoining room for carers.
Rewley House accommodation has been rated as 4-Star Campus Accommodation under Visit England. See accommodation details.
For information about entry requirements and how to apply, please visit the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website.
If you have any questions about the progress of your application, please contact the Course Administrator, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Graduate Admissions Office, tel: 01865 270059; email: email@example.com
When to apply
We strongly recommend that you apply by the January or March deadlines. After the March deadline, the course will only stay open for that year's entry if places are still available.
Remember that it can take a number of weeks to obtain all of the documents you need and to prepare a competitive application. You should also allow your referees plenty of time to submit your references. We therefore recommend you apply as soon as possible.
Fee rates for the academic year 2023-24
These rates (in pounds sterling) are for students joining in the 2023-24 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: £10,255
- Module fee: £2,250
- Dissertation fee: £6,750
Illustration for full programme (completing in two years, with eight teaching weeks and a dissertation):
Annual Award Fee: £10,255*
plus 5 Module Fees: £11,250*
Total Year 1: £21,505
Annual Award Fee: £10,255*
plus 3 Module Fees: £6,750*
plus Dissertation Fee: £6,750*
Total Year 2: £23,755*
- The fee rates listed are for the academic year shown, and you should be aware that these rates will increase annually.
- 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 7% annual increase on fee rates.
Scholarships and sources of funding
The MSc Sustainable Urban Development Programme Scholarship is open to anyone applying for the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.
You will be automatically be considered for a Clarendon Scholarship if you are made a conditional offer following the January deadline. You do not need to submit a separate application. Clarendon scholars are selected for their outstanding academic merit and potential.
For details of college scholarships for part-time graduate students, please visit the University's Graduate Admissions funding guide. Further details can also be found on the University's Fees and Funding page.
Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information is also available on our Sources of Funding page.
English language ability
Prospective students whose first language is not English should note that English language certification at the higher level is required, and any offer of a place will be conditional on the receipt of an original certificate (see the ‘Notes of Guidance’). Please see the entry requirements on the Graduate Admissions course page for more details.
International applicants please note that it is not possible to be resident in the UK on the basis of this course. As the MSc is a two-year, part-time course, it does not have the number of teaching hours per week required for a student visa, and international students will not be permitted to live in the UK on the basis of undertaking the course.
International students must research whether they require a visa, and if so, obtain an appropriate visa to cover their time in England before coming to the UK.
If offered a place on the course, please note that your offer is made on the basis of our entry requirements and does not necessarily mean you will be eligible to apply for a visa to study. We can provide a letter in support of Visitor visa applications to students accepted on to this course.
For information on visas, please refer to guidance from the University:
See also guidance from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).
If you have any questions about this course, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Discover how our current and former students have used the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development (MSUD) for career progression or further study. Read a selection of student stories below, or view all MSUD student spotlights.
Edith found that completing the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development ignited a desire for further research and truly demonstrated that ‘the more you come to know, the more you want to know’.
Being able to compare, in real time, urban experiences from throughout the Global South and the Global North was a unique and inspiring academic experience for Ed when undertaking the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.
Having discovered that her MSc in Sustainable Urban Development research highlighted scope for further exploration, Aditi is now enrolled on the part-time DPhil programme.
Alumnus Hamse Abdilahi was attracted to the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development programme due to its relevance to both rich and poor nations.
Since enrolling on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development Melissa has been accepted on to a PhD programme at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.
Paul Hackett CBE
Paul Hackett CBE
Having worked in the field for decades, Paul Hackett CBE found that the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development offered an expansive range of topics to further enhance his career ambitions.