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MSc in Sustainable Urban Development

Key facts

TypesOxford Qualification - Part-time
Professional Development
Start dateOct 2016
Subject area(s)Environmental Sciences
Geography Studies
Town and Country Planning
FeesEstimated fees for 2015 entry: £33,637(includes college fees). Scholarship/Awards available, as are fee payment plans
Application statusApplications being accepted
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email sud@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 286953.


The two-year MSc in Sustainable Urban Development will provide you with a rigorous and critical introduction to 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 cities of the Global North and South.


MSc teaching dates for 2016-18

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 typically 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 operating in a range of urban contexts worldwide - public, private or third sector organisations - and fosters collaboration, creativity, perspective-sharing and effective networking skills. The programme runs in partnership with the Prince's Foundation for Building Community, and is an accredited course within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors University Partnership.

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

Programme details

Cohort 3 at Earls Court, London Download a PDF document PDF document.

The course is delivered through a mix of tailored teaching and learning methods, including seminars, site visits, peer-review, research workshops and individual 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 module, during which time you should expect to spend an average of 15 hours per week of independent study.

You will be allocated a course supervisor who will support your academic development, and with whom you will meet during each module for an individual tutorial. In the second year, you will be allocated a dissertation supervisor. Where dissertation supervision requires expertise that is not available among the core staff, an additional dissertation supervisor will be identified. You will also have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.

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 modules are held at the offices of the Prince's Foundation for Building Community in London. The remaining six are held in Oxford at the Department for Continuing Education. Each module addresses a core theme of the course.

In the first year, you will study five interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary modules:

  • Concepts of the City and Environmental Change
  • Climate Change and the Built Environment
  • Place-making and Urban Design
  • Financing Sustainability
  • Sustainable Transport

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.

In the second year, you will study three interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary modules:

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

You will spend the latter half of the second year working on a 15,000-word dissertation. You will choose the topic, with the guidance of your supervisor, and, in most cases, spend time doing fieldwork and gathering data during this period. More information can be found in the Course Handbook.



Dr David Howard

Role: Director

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

Dr David Howard is an...more

Dr Nihan Akyelken

Role: Deputy Course Director and Tutor

Keywords: Transport infrastructure, mobilities, social inequalities and development planning

Nihan joined the University of Oxford as a...more

Dr Idalina Baptista

Role: Associate Professor

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

Idalina Baptista is an Associate...more

Dr Johanna Waters

Role: Associate Professor

Keywords: International and transnational migration and cities, international education and student mobilities.

Dr. Johanna Waters is an...more

Mr Ben Bolgar

Role: Tutor

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

Mr Ben Bolgar is the...more

Dr Matthew Hardy

Role: Tutor

Keywords: Sustainable urbanism, urban resilience, European architectural history and climate

Dr Matthew Hardy is an architect and...more

Dr Nigel Mehdi

Role: Senior Associate Tutor

Dr Nigel Mehdi is a Visiting Fellow at the Spatial Economics Research Centre, London School of Economics. He is a Chartered Surveyor, working as a...more

Course aims

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:

  • a rigorous and intellectually-demanding education in the field of sustainable urban 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 and the practical and research experience of the PFBC.

Assessment methods

For each module, 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 also submit a research dissertation of up to 15,000 words. It is expected that you will define your own dissertation topic in consultation with your allocated supervisor. Training in research skills is built into the course delivery, in order to help you make the most of this opportunity.

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.


The MSc is comprised of five modules in Year 1 and three modules plus a dissertation in Year 2, for each year of registration an Annual Award fee (Course Fee) is also due. Please see the Fees and funding site for more information on how modular fees are calculated. Fees must be paid in accordance with the Terms and Conditions for the programme.

The fees for Year 1 are £16050

The fees for Year 2 are £17730 (plus a 3-5% inflationary increase)

All fees are inclusive of college fees. All fees must be paid in accordance with the Terms and Conditions for the programme.

The course expects to offer annual payment plans of three or seven instalments, with the first instalment due piror to the first module and the final payment due before the following Easter. Please contact us for further information using the details below.

Apply for this course

Applications for this course should be made via the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website.

Early application for the programme is strongly advised. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to a telephone interview.

If you would like to discuss your application or any part of the application process before applying please contact the course team via sud@conted.ox.ac.uk

Contractual and financial information (important: please read before applying) PDF document.
Payment methods (important: please read before applying) PDF document.

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