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Unit information: Urban Governance and Democracy in 2016/17

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Unit name Urban Governance and Democracy
Unit code SPOL20028
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sweeting
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


In a context where cities are increasingly seen as drivers of change and innovation both in national and global contexts, this unit examines processes, policies, issues, and innovations in and around urban governance. It is concerned with both formal political processes in urban politics, and also examines the informal less institutionalised relationships and issues that are apparent alongside or outside government in urban areas. The unit considers traditional and contemporary perspectives on local democracy, and as such there is consideration of institutions such local government, directly elected mayors and representative processes of decision-making, and analysis of the interests outside formal governmental process in cities in governance networks, embedded in communities and containing public, private and third sector interests. Cutting through this unit is a concern for policy issues as they play out in cities, such as urbanisation, globalisation, gentrification, and regeneration, and underlying the unit are deeper questions related to the nature and distribution of power and inclusion and exclusion in urban areas.


  • To introduce students to theoretical interpretations of urban theory, urban governance, and urban politics;
  • To facilitate an understanding of the formal governmental and informal political processes in cities;
  • To explore urban issues to demonstrate the nature of forces impacting on and within cities

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students will be able to

  • demonstrate an understanding of the key elements of urban theory;
  • give an account of the processes of governance in cities
  • have an appreciation of contemporary urban issues

Teaching details

Interactive lectures and seminars

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: (max) 2500 word essay to assess and support the students' preparations for the summative assessment.

Summative (100%): a 3000 word essay which will enable the students to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit.

All assessment is marked against the published marking criteria for that level (I/5), as stated in the Social Policy Programme handbook.

Reading and References

Pierre, J (2011) The politics of urban governance. (Basingstoke: Palgrave)

Harding A and Blokland T (2014) Urban Theory: A critical introduction to power, cities and urbanism in the 21st century (London: Sage)

Davies, J. and Imbroscio D. (eds) (2009) Theories of urban politics. (London: Sage)

Hambleton, R. (2015) Leading the inclusive city. (Bristol: Policy Press)

Wilson, D. and Game, C. (2011) Local Government in the United Kingdom. 5th ed. (Basingstoke: Palgrave)

Barber, B. (2012) If mayors rules the world. Dysfunctional nations, rising cities. (Yale University Press)