Urban Studies: 21st Century Cities

2018 entry

Features and benefits of the course

  • Interdisciplinary. The degree is inter-disciplinary in nature, drawing on urban study strengths in at MMU in sociology, political science, human geography, and architecture. In particular, it draws on the applied research strengths of the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and the Manchester Crime and Wellbeing Big Data Centre (both based in the Department of Sociology and Criminology).
  • Manchester was the world’s first industrialised city, has undergone significant urban renewal in recent years, and is currently experiencing significant changes in its governance following devolution and the election of the first Mayor of Greater Manchester. Manchester is uniquely placed to examine key theoretical and empirical debates around the nature of urban development and the urban experience, and is one of the case study cities used throughout the programme.
  • Research-informed teaching. The university departments and research units involved in delivering this programme all deliver high quality research and research publications, and teaching on this programme will be informed by this research.
  • Big data. The programme will provide students with the opportunity to learn about and use data analysis skills, accessing real-world big data through the involvement of the university’s Big Data Centre.

About the course

Typical units of study may include

Year 1

The core units for this course are:

  • Researching the City (30 Credits)
  • Understanding the Urban (30 Credits)
  • Dissertation (60 Credits)

The optional units for this course are:

(you will choose four of the below units for Term 2, all 30 credits)

  • Evidence, Policy and Evaluation
  • Policy Analysis
  • Relational Urbanism
  • Smart Sustainable Cities
  • Urban Analytics
  • Urban Governance, Policy and Politics

Core Units

Dissertation Unit: You will be expected to conduct a piece of individual research on an appropriate degree topic. The unit’s approach will be flexible and may encompass a range of methods to achieve learning outcomes.

Researching the City

This module is designed to prepare students for undertaking their dissertation, and also for undertaking applied urban research more generally. The module introduces students to a wide range of issues they might encounter when designing social research and presenting findings. The module will also provide students with a broad understanding of alternative solutions to research design challenges; to enable students to select a justifiable design for any social research question; and to be capable of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their own and others’ research designs.

Understanding the Urban

How do we explain, define, conceptualise and understand cities and the urban. Drawing on the interdisciplinary nature of this course, the core module will examine cities in history, this module will explore cities as a sense of time and space, in terms of the built environment, and as posing unique social problems and policy challenges. It will compare and contrast different theories of urbanism, considering whether these offer a plausible explanation of the city development over time, of differences in pace, scale and density of urban development, and differences across parts of the world.

Likely Optional Units
Evidence, Policy and Evaluation

This module examines how policy is formulated, implemented and evaluated. This includes an understanding the social, economic and political processes that are involved in shaping policy, including the role of interests and of evidence.

Policy Analysis

This unit focuses on analysis of urban policy (as opposed to analysis for policy). It examines theories and approaches of policy analysis, exploring the main methodological approaches, and aims to give an understanding of key issues involved in urban policy research. It also introduces students to current academic debate around policy mobilities (or policy transfer), and methods for undertaking analysis on the social reproduction of cities.

Relational Urbanism

In this module, students will be introduced to current theoretical and methodological debates on comparative urbanism. In particular, they will engage with relational urbanism, a recent development in urban studies that seeks to break away from the perceived Anglo-American bias within urban studies and move towards theories and methods that are relevant and appropriate to the Global South.

Smart Sustainable Cities

The module will introduce key concepts underpinning the notions of smart cities and sustainable cities. These include the Internet of Things, social innovation, circular economy, resilience, low carbon transitions, and social entrepreneurship.  The module recognises that smart cities can be vulnerable to unforeseen events, and that efficient cities may not be resilient ones. It also explores tensions between ‘resilience’ (often associated with preservation of the status quo) and ‘transformation’, referring to more  fundamental change in goals, behaviour and infrastructure.

Urban Analytics

The aim of this module is to provide students with the theoretical and methodological skill sets to creatively and critically analyse urban challenges centred on inequality, sustainability and mobility. The module will introduce students to a range of consolidated specialist programmes capable of taking advantage of advances in open, administrative and big data. Attention will be paid to the ways in which urban analytics can inform spatially and temporally sensitive decision-making. The module will be delivered by a mixture of lectures, practical hand-outs and tutorials. On occasion, international leading scholars will be invited to deliver webinars. The module will provide guidance on the use of mainstream software packages (e.g., GIS and Stata) as well as freeware and open source packages (e.g., semi-parametric GWR and R). The potential of these software packages to support urban analytics will be demonstrated with reference to international case studies focused on transport, crime, health and urban segmentation. 

Urban Governance, Policy and Politics

How are cities governed? This module explores comparatively different forms of public governance in both the developed and developing world, examining issues of power, politics, urban citizenship, urban social movements and other informal governance mechanisms. The module examines how models of urban governance and policy making have developed over time, and how these relate to the relevant policy domain or higher order legislative and governance frameworks. It explores issues of complexity within governance processes, and the challenges of urban governance, which operate within multifaceted political and policy environments. The module addresses the role played by different forms of urban governance in urban economic and physical development.

Programme Review

Each programme of study that we offer undergoes an annual review to ensure an up-to-date curriculum supported by the latest online learning technology. In addition, we undertake a major review of the programme, normally at 6-yearly intervals, but this can take place at a more frequent interval where required. Applicants should note that the programme currently provided may be subject to change as a result of the review process. We only make changes where we consider it necessary to do so or where we feel that certain changes are in the best interests of students and to enhance the quality of provision. Occasionally, we have to make changes for reasons outside our control. Where there are changes which may materially affect the current programme content and/or structure, offer holders will be informed.

Assessment details

  • Assessed essays
  • Practical portfolio
  • Group presentation
  • Report/proposal
  • Exams
  • Dissertation

Teaching Staff

Your studies are supported by a team of committed and enthusiastic teachers and researchers, experts in their chosen field. We also work with external professionals, many of whom are Manchester Met alumni, to enhance your learning and appreciation of the wider subject. Details of departmental staff can be found at:

Typical entry requirements

A good first degree in any social science subject, particularly sociology, human geography, politics/political science. Students with a good first degree in computer science or data science, with an interest in the urban analytics module, would also be welcome. Students with a first degree in other subjects may also be considered and should talk to the programme director in the first instance.

There’s further information for international students on our international website if you’re applying with non-UK qualifications.

How do I apply for this course?

The quickest and most efficient way to apply for this course is to apply online. This way, you can also track your application at each stage of the process.

Apply online now

If you are unable to apply online, you can apply for full- and part-time taught courses by completing the postgraduate application form. There are exceptions for some professional courses – the course information on our on-line prospectus will give you more information in these cases.

Please note: to apply for this course, you only need to provide one reference.

Career options after the course

This course aims to equip you with the skills to progress to higher research programmes, and/or to expand and enhance your career opportunities and professional practice within public policy or public administration and related agencies and organisations. Successful completion provides evidence of high standards in a range of transferable skills that may be relevant in non-related career settings, for example, information retrieval, summarising complex material, applied data analysis, producing high quality reports, initiating and developing projects.

Confirmation of Regulator

Important Notice

This online prospectus provides an overview of our programmes of study and the University. We regularly update our online prospectus so that our published course information is accurate and up to date. Please note that our programmes are subject to review and development on an ongoing basis. Changes may sometimes be necessary. For example, to comply with the requirements of professional or accrediting bodies or as a result of student feedback or external examiners’ reports. We also need to ensure that our courses are dynamic and current and that the content and structure maintain academic standards and enhance the quality of the student experience.

Please check back to the online prospectus before making an application to us.

The provision of education by the University is subject to terms and conditions of enrollment and contract. The current Terms and Conditions Applicable to the provision of the University’s Educational Services are available online. When a student enrolls with us, their study and registration at the University will be governed by various regulations, policies and procedures. It is important that applicants/students familiarize themselves with our Terms and Conditions and the Key Contract Documents referred to within. Applicants will be provided with access to an up to date version at offer stage. This can be found within the Information for Offer Holders document.