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MSc in Sustainable Urban Development

University of Oxford    Department for Continuing Education

Part time October MSc 2 years

About the course


About the course

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.

Read more about this course

Entry Requirements

Please see the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements: View Website


For fees and further course details please see our website: Please see the university website for further information on fees for this course.

 Course Content

Where is University of Oxford


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MSc in Sustainable Urban Development MSc in Sustainable Urban Development 14/02/2019 09:28:19
MSc in Sustainable Urban Development
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Student Profile(s)

Dylan Carr

"While I applied and was accepted to full-time programs, the MSUD programme curriculum stood out for me as both diverse and highly relevant. I particularly valued the focus on sustainability (in its many urban-related facets) and was looking forward to meeting a cohort of practitioners who shared that passion. While there were challenges with working full-time and studying part-time, the opportunity cost is much lower and I appreciated the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of cities while continuing to progress my career and incorporate this learning into my work.

For someone accustomed to multiple projects and deadlines, the discipline of writing a dissertation was still a particular challenge for me. With such a (seemingly) long period of time to delve into one specific topic, it was very difficult to know when or whether I had met my milestones for a) building an adequate base of knowledge, b) critically examining that knowledge and c) contributing something worthwhile to the debate.

In the end, the dissertation and programme were highly rewarding because they challenged me. I taught myself new professional skills (transport simulation modelling and the Java software language) to conduct my research and I got to delve into the environmental sustainability of emerging transport technologies. I was very fortunate to have a supportive and interested employer who provided me the flexibility to pursue this degree and this research and I’m also lucky enough to walk away with a great group of friends and alumni that I’ll be connected with in the future."

Kate Fairlie

"First and foremost I realised that I needed a masters or other higher degree in order to progress in my current career path. But in searching for a suitable masters I realised I wanted to both further specialise as a land administration professional, yet gain a broader, interdisciplinary understanding of related fields. The MSc met this aim nicely, whilst providing the opportunity to work and study at the same time, and to ultimately gain a degree from Oxford.

Juggling the demands of full time work and part time study, along with other unexpected time demands, was undoubtedly the biggest challenge of the MSc.

These demands and challenges were ameliorated to some extent by the support and insights of fellow students. Every class brought new knowledge not simply through the lecturer but also through the perspectives of fellow students. I had not anticipated the strength of the relationships formed, nor the level of support that classmates would provide in going beyond lecture material to both complete assessments and relate material back to our individual fields.

The MSc is fundamentally a stepping stone - I think it is best suited to those who have already specialised to some extent and are looking for a more 'generalist' postgraduate degree to widen and question one's perspective, whilst providing a broader network of peers and experts to draw from. In the tradition of most further study, it provides solid tools to promote analysis and questioning - whilst the breadth of topics addressed in each week of lectures allows students to dive as deeply as they would like (or not at all) according to interest and relevance."

Edith Chin

"Embarking on this course, any reservations I initially held that came from not having a background in a planning, design or development related field, were easily overcome by the multidisciplinary nature of the content, and the strong emphasis placed on the theoretical underpinnings as a basis of understanding. The structure of the course allowed us the flexibility to pursue this as we continued with our other commitments. The weeks in Oxford were intense and equally enriching. Not only did we learn from the distinguished academic community, but we benefited from guest presenters who were leaders in their respective fields, as well as from the wealth of experience our diverse cohort brought. I found great value in presentations from a company in retail that is a global leader in incorporating sustainability practices in their operations, allowing a deeper understanding of how our core business could also be more sustainable.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dissertation process, where I explored the issues of livelihood along the themes of gender, housing and employment, by looking at cases of women operating home-based economic activities in housing schemes. I was very pleased with the guidance given in this regard, that led me along paths of discovery I never initially thought of taking.

Having completed the course, I continue to work in our family business with an enriched perspective, incorporating ways to be more sustainable in our core business and community. I have shared the findings of my dissertation with planners at both the national and local level, and am working to rally support to collaborate with planners, builders and community to adjust what is offered. This process has also ignited a desire for further research and has truly demonstrated that the more you come to know, the more you want to know.

To anyone contemplating taking this course, I would say the rigour involved requires serious commitment, but it is certainly worth the investment of time and resources. The benefits for me surpassed what I originally hoped to accomplish."

Karim Khwanda

"I found that the frequent travel and the considerable amount of reading and writing required me to manage my time and multi-task in a way that was different to what I was used to. It was certainly a good thing to get used to though! I really enjoyed (and needed) the flexibility that the part-time format offered because it meant that I was able to continue to meet my professional obligations in parallel with my studies at Oxford – that was very important to me.

I’m proud to say that my contributions as a director have been enriched significantly as a direct result of taking this course – they are more strategic, evidence-based, and confident.

In late 2017, I was extremely grateful to David Howard and the rest of the faculty to have been given the platform to address the Oxford MSUD network. I spoke about the absolutely transformative impact that the course had on me and my work. In two years, I transitioned from someone who had very little interest in (or knowledge of) the concept of sustainability, especially in the face of what Syria was going through and what I thought the country needed, to someone who understood the ways in which sustainability was central to urban development – whether post-conflict or not.

I also talked about how sustainability-thinking in the urban realm and beyond has to be the starting point of everything we do - whether it is conflict prevention and mitigation, or addressing climate change, or socio-economic inequality, or designing optimal accessibility into cities so that their inhabitants can live fuller lives.

The beauty of Oxford is that inspiration and learning is absolutely everywhere, and I would really encourage students to squeeze as much out of their experience here as possible beyond their course. For example, debating for the Oxford Union taught me how to quickly construct a structured argument and think critically under pressure and in front of an audience. Their on-going workshops every Sunday evening are a very welcoming environment that students can integrate into their week before the course module starts on Monday morning.

I would advise somebody who is considering undertaking the MSc not to hesitate in applying. Completing this degree at Oxford has been a transformative experience for me - it has changed the way I think, and has really added to my value system and my professional capacity and confidence."

Swati Janu

"I came to know about the Sustainable Urban Development course through the Prince’s Foundation and I found its inter-disciplinary nature appealing. A look at the course curriculum showed that there was a specific focus on the global South which most international courses fail to include. The part-time nature of the course enabled me to continue my work in India while offering the opportunity to expose myself to diverse critical themes with each module.

As a designer, I was not well versed with fields such as that of Economics but the module ‘Financing Sustainability’ dedicated to that helped me imbibe new facets of urbanism that I had not considered before. From critiquing the Sharing economy to understanding the implications of Digital economy in the Indian context, applying these perspectives to my work has been critical for me.

The rigorous essay writing following each module has been a great learning experience for me. The exposure to academic theories and international issues ranging from the politics of climate change to urban informality has enabled me to take up further research projects since the completion of the course. Each module generated a new, engaging discourse and the part-time nature allowed me to assimilate the insights gained each time, directly influencing my practical understanding in the field as well. With ‘Smart cities’ being a current debate in India, concepts introduced in the module on ‘Future Cities’ have been particularly relevant to my current work.
The 2017-19 MSc Programme 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. Its inter-disciplinary has encouraged a further diversification of my approach to my ongoing work in urban informality, through the mediums of public art, practice in the field and ethnographic research.

I would say that everyone takes something different from the course depending on what interests you, considering its varied content and flexible schedule. So, think about what you want from the course by the time you finish it and be prepared to design your own experience through its duration. The part-time nature of the course is also an important consideration in deciding on the relevance of the course for you."

Victoria Lee

Shortly before I applied to the programme, I was involved in an incredibly interesting and challenging project in Muscat, Oman. Madinat Al Irfan was set to be a new city in a dry, barren desert to the west of the city for 100,000+ people. New housing, civic and cultural buildings, and landscape were required in addition to transport, energy and digital infrastructure. I travelled to Oman for this project and better understood the enormity of the project and its ambition. The project highlighted complex city-scale issues that I had not yet encountered through my work in architecture, urban design and planning in the UK – how to develop the culture of sustainable transport in a car-reliant society, how to design for changing and extreme climatic conditions, and how to balance the need for water and the use of energy? These were just some of the many strategic design questions being asked. I pursued the MSc with these strategic questions, particularly in international contexts, in mind.

My research dissertation on the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) was the most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of the degree. It brought together three of my professional and academic interests – legacy, megaprojects and urban governance. I investigated the meaning of the term ‘legacy’ to LLDC, and how this meaning is interpreted through the planning process and realised in developments thereafter. This study also built upon my previous postgraduate thesis on the masterplan for the London 2012 Olympic Games and my work with another development corporation - Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation – through the Design Council.Importantly, the degree has expanded my fervour and curiosity about design, planning, development and importantly governance in the UK and internationally.

Since completing the degree, I apply this mindset to my work in urban design, planning and development. The degree provides the opportunity to go beyond the status quo and deliver real change. It has expanded my knowledge, network and life experience. I trusted my instincts and applied, and now I feel truly grateful and fulfilled by the experience. I was supported by my family, friends, peers and tutors along this journey, and those who helped though Crowdfunding. Go for it!

Gavin Schaefer

Before I enrolled in the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development I was in Vancouver working on large-scale global projects as an architect. With this background, I was well-versed in progressive environmentally sustainable building techniques in dense cities. Through my volunteer experience in the community, I was slowly developing a more holistic understanding of how design fits into the bigger picture of the built environment, and that left me with quite a few questions that my training had not prepared me for.
By pursuing the MSc, my ambition was to broaden my foundation of sustainable practice in the built environment through interdisciplinary studies.The quality of the classes and readings were excellent, but if I were to focus on what I found most enjoyable it was the relationships built with my fellow classmates and tutors. I had not had the opportunity in my life to be exposed to so many intelligent people from a global background, so it was humbling to hear the expertise that my colleagues brought with them. Putting the problems that I faced into a broader context helped me achieve a level of distance, which provides an opportunity for a clear-headed analysis. I keep in touch with my colleagues, and it’s surprising how often our paths cross in the world


Key facts :
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2020-21. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs.

For over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria, you will be automatically considered.
The vast majority of Oxford scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their course application by the January deadline.

Most Oxford scholarships worth over £1,000 are advertised through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search. You should use this tool to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

In order to be considered for some scholarships offered by departments, you need to enter a scholarship reference code in the relevant section of the graduate application form. If this is the case, the code will be provided in the scholarship information given on department websites.

When are Oxford scholarships awarded?:
Most Oxford scholarships are awarded between late February and June. The approximate date by which decisions are expected to be made will normally be given in the scholarship information, available from the Scholarships A-Z listing.

A scholarship may be awarded either at the same time or after you are offered a place by your department. It may be awarded either before or after you have been offered a college place.

Value of Scholarship(s)

worth over £1,000


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Application Procedure

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