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Unit information: Cities and communities in the urban age in 2018/19

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Unit name Cities and communities in the urban age
Unit code SPOL20038
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


Now that the world has entered ‘the urban age’, where for the first time more than half the world lives in cities, this unit examines contemporary issues facing cities and communities within them. The unit will consider contemporary global trends as they impact on urban areas, such as urbanisation, globalisation and climate change, and the capacity of cities to respond to them. More locally embedded processes and trends which are apparent in urban areas and impact on urban communities, such as gentrification, urban inequality and poverty, and policy responses to them, will also be considered. The unit will consider the potential of cities to be ‘sustainable’ and ‘resilient’, analyse how cities are led and are governed, and how citizens and communities might take part in processes of democracy and governance where they live. Underlying the unit are deeper questions related to the nature and distribution of power, and inclusion and exclusion in urban areas.

In national and international contexts, the unit aims are:

  • To introduce students to concepts such as urbanisation, urban resilience, sustainability, and governance;
  • To facilitate an understanding of the processes in the urban context of globalisation, gentrification, regeneration, and local democracy;
  • To consider the capacity of cities to be able to act in response to the challenges with which they are confronted.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will

  • Be able to understand and consider the significance of global and local processes acting upon and within cities
  • Reflect on and analyse the capacity of cities to cope with various urban challenges
  • Explain how cities and communities within them are impacted by and respond to those challenges

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: one 2500 (max) 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

Fox, S and Goodfellow, T, (2016) Cities and Development. 2nd Ed. (London: Routledge)

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

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

Brenner, N. and Schmid, C. (2014) ‘The urban age in question’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 38.3, May, 731-55.

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