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rtpiMSc Cities and Global Development

100% of recent graduates are in graduate-level employment or further study (DLHE 2016/2017).


The largest and fastest-growing cities in the world today are in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Studying on this course you'll explore the range of urban development and planning challenges faced by governments and populations in these regions, whilst learning vital analytical and practical tools to address them.  This interdisciplinary course looks at urban problems in global development processes, exploring links between national and local policies as well as the economic, social, institutional and political relationships between the global north and south.

I studied History and Politics as my Undergraduate Degree but the teaching staff and structure of the Cities and Global Development Masters ensured that I did not feel like an outsider. I would highly recommend [this course] to anyone else considering it.

Cheyanna O'Connor

This 12 months course is aimed at those wishing to acquire the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in international development assistance, urban governance, planning and environmental policy in the global South. There's a range of optional modules and core teaching reflecting the latest debates in urban theory and development studies, with a built in international field trip.

The course includes a team-based student consultancy project for an external client, providing the opportunity to undertake ‘live’ consultancy work for a real-world public, private or non-profit organisation in the field of international urban development.

This MSc is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) making it unique in the UK by offering both a client-facing project with a professional accreditation.  The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has a bursary for places on this accredited planning course. You can find more information on applying for the bursary here.

Overseas students from developing countries applying for the course may also be eligible to apply for the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust Masters Scholarships.

Dr Gabriel Silvestre, the programme director on the course, outlines what you can expect:

Course Structure

Please note, this is an indicative selection of our option modules and availability varies each year.

Autumn Semester

This semester introduces students to cutting edge debates on the spatial, economic, social and political transformations affecting urban areas across the Global South. These transformations – which include the globalisation of production and consumption, rapid urbanisation, the spread of new forms of governance – impact upon the lives and livelihoods of the majority of the world’s population. The modules taken in this semester aim to equip students with a critical understanding of these diverse processes and the ways in which practitioners mediate them.

In this semester students will take the following core modules:

Theorising the City in the Global South (15 credits)
This module addresses debates at the interface between urban studies and development studies. Focusing on urban areas in the Global South, it looks at the city through a range of theoretical perspectives and from a variety of spatial scales, from everyday practices of citizens at the grassroots level to the representation of the city within national policy and planning processes.

Urban Development in the Global South (15 credits)
In this module students will explore in detail particular challenges to urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there?

Ideas and Practice in International Development (15 credits)
This module, which is co-taught with the Department of Geography, looks at key challenges and debates in the field of international development, from poverty and economic growth to gender relations, governance and security. It encourages students to think critically about the ways in which practitioners approach issues and define problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions.

Research Methods (15 credits)
This core training in research methods develops core skills essential to undertaking social science research into processes of urban development and planning. It provides grounding in qualitative and basic quantitative research methods, as well as helping students to understand the types of research carried out and used in professional practice.

Spring Semester

The second semester allows you to develop and apply the skills and knowledge gained through the autumn semester as well as providing opportunities to focus on specialist areas of urban studies, planning, governance, international development and environmental sustainability. It also offers the option of undertaking a consultancy project for an external client. Find out more here.

All students will take:

Planning for Informality (15 credits)
This module aims to develop a critical understanding of informal settlement in and around the cities of 'the South'. Through a mixture of lectures, group work and an in-depth study of a Southern city, it explores the patterns and causes of informal settlement, introducing and critiquing a range of theoretical approaches, and examines the responses of planners to informality.

International Field Class: Urban Development (15 credits)
Through a week in Durban, South Africa, the project will develop your skills in site analysis, urban design and policy-making and help you to apply these to real-life urban development and design scenarios. The project will also give you direct contact with academics and students from a partner institution as you develop your understanding of and responses to planning and development problems.


A choice of two modules from the following list (each at 15 credits):

  • Living with Climate Change
  • Cities of Diversity
  • Governance and Participation in the Global South
  • Transport Planning
  • Transport and Connectivity
  • Advanced GIS Methods
  • Issues in Housing*
  • International Real Estate Market Analysis
  • Health, Wellbeing and the Built Environment
  • GIS for Built Environment Professionals
  • Planning Law
  • International Urban Development Consultancy Project
  • Sustainable Development: A Critical Investigation
  • Managing Cities: The Seoul Case Study
  • Mega Urban Projects

*This module has been validated by The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and counts as credit towards Chartered membership (CIHCM).


Dissertation (60 credits)

The dissertation will let you explore a research topic in detail with the individual guidance of your personal supervisor. It will help you develop specialist knowledge and skills as well as personal, generic and research skills.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of changes the University will consult and inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Admissions Criteria

All applications are treated individually and on their own merits. The normal entry requirement is a good honours degree, normally a First or Upper Second Class degree or its international equivalent. However, we recognise the value of experience and welcome applications from people who have been in practice of who bring other experience to their studies. We do not stipulate a prior or undergraduate degree in a particular subject and welcome applications from students who have a keen interest in international development and planning, a commitment to work in the field and strong academic credentials.

English language requirements

Overall IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

Open Days

Applicants resident in the UK will normally be invited to an Open Day. This will allow you to find out more about the course in particular and Sheffield in general and meet staff and students.

Book on an open day

The Department is committed to a policy of equality of opportunity in the application process and wishes to ensure a diversity of students on its courses. It therefore particularly welcomes applications from people from non-standard academic backgrounds, from people with relevant employment experience, from minority ethnic students, from women, from mature students and from students with disabilities.


The core staff who teach on this programme have active research links with countries in the global South, including India, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Egypt.

They play an active role in the University's new Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID).

Steve C

Steve Connelly

Tom Small

Tom Goodfellow

Mel small

Melanie Lombard

Paula Meth

Paula Meth

Gabriel Silvestre

Gabriel Silvestre


Glyn Williams

Field Trips

The MSc Cities and Global Development involves an international field class in Spring semester. This is a compulsory element of the course that provides valuable opportunities to put the learning and skills developed earlier in the year into practice in the real-world context of a city in the global South.

Field trips in recent years have been to Egypt, Turkey and India but destinations may change in the future. The destination for the 2018/2019 field class is Durban, South Africa. Through the field class the project will develop your skills in site analysis, urban design and policy-making and help you to apply these to real-life urban development and design scenarios. The project will also give you direct contact with academics and students from a partner institution as you develop your understanding of and responses to planning and development problems.

To keep costs to a minimum, field trip costs for the MSc Cities and Global Development are not included in course fees and usually amount to £1000-1200 for flights, a weeks' accommodation, airport transfers and insurance. 

Additionally, students will be required to cover the cost of their own visa, vaccinations and local transport and food (likely to be between £200-300).

Costs for 2019-20 are yet to be confirmed, but are likely to be similar to those incurred in 2018-19.

Graduate Profiles

Students graduating from this course are popular with a wide range of employers. Our graduates have found jobs in many leading organisations such as Oxfam and UN HABITAT. Many others have gone on to work in private and public services or in business. Our course gives you the ability to analyse, propose policies and implement strategies which is vital experience in moving forward to employment. You will also learn a wide variety of generic management and communication skills which is essential for any working environment. The transferable skills you develop in strategic thinking, teamwork, creativity and communication are exactly what most employers are seeking in almost any area in which you may subsequently decide to develop your career.

kwKatie Williams

I completed my undergraduate degree, BSc Economics, at the University of Sheffield, during which time I became interested in issues of international development, and wished to study the field further. However, I wanted to study the issues through a different, and ultimately more socially orientated, lens. The MSc in Cities and Glbal Development provided the scope to do this, giving me the opportunity to expand on my knowledge on international development from another perspective. The Department´s reputation- both its high position in academic and teaching rankings, and more importantly positive accounts from friends already studying in it - confirmed my decision.

Neither the course, nor the Department, disappointed. Over the course of the year we studied and engaged in theories of global poverty, sustainable development, and spatial and social inequality, and within our small(-ish) group of 10 were encouraged to interact with all forms of learning. This came initially as a bit of a shock, having been used to quietly sitting in a 100-person lecture theatre! However, the nature of the course not only allowed for a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, but also for a close and friendly relationship to be built between the group and lecturers.
By far the most rewarding part of the course was the completion of the dissertation in the summer term, on which I chose to focus on the recent displacement of informal settlements in Delhi.

My dissertation supervisor, Dr. Glyn Williams, helped guide and develop my initial ideas towards a more focused research topic, and was extremely supportive and encouraging when I showed interest in travelling to Delhi itself to conduct parts of the research. Not only did the research I gained whilst in Delhi add enormously to the content of the dissertation itself, but it also developed my confidence enormously and allowed me to gain a better perspective of the issues facing parts of the developing world.  Since finishing the MSc in September, I have been working with Oxfam, first as an intern and then in a paid position, primarily on their policy and advocacy work in Wales.


Abel Lopex Dodero

I obtained my degree in Economics at the Universidad Cristobal Colon (UCC) in Mexico, followed by a two-years Masters degree course in Economics at the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico, which awarded me a scholarship for the MSc in Sheffield. From 2002 to 2007 I was employed by the Finance Department of the Government of Mexico City conducting financial analysis for publicly-owned entities. I also served with the Public Transportation Committee in 2003 performing operation and financial analysis. This experience presented me with the opportunity to contribute to different projects related to transportation.

During my work, I developed a great interest in planning and development and became aware of the need for high quality research of sustainable transport issues in Mexico. It became my intention to pursue this research and embarked on the MSc Cities and Global Development at the University of Sheffield. The Department of Urban Studies and Planning had great academic support to offer with well-structured courses and with highly experienced scholars in a variety of areas. The focus on the social sphere related to planning was what I was looking for, considering my economics background. The ratio of lecturers to students was above my expectations. For the International Planning Project course I counted with the support of two lecturers with experience in the so-called developing world, who guided me to understand the social implications of policy design in this context. This was an eye-opening experience that made me realize the important role that planners have in promoting social equity which is often neglected in attempts to promote sustainable development.

I am currently in my second year of the PhD in Planning degree at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, in the School of Planning. My research interest is in sustainable public transportation in developing countries. I am also part of the Waterloo Public Transportation Institute in which we are promoting improvements in the public transportation system and operations for actual cities. When I look back at my time at Sheffield, I specially remember the lecturers´ patience concerning the fact that English is not my first language. This patience added to the academic knowledge gained at Sheffield have guided me well into rewarding results in my current degree.


Dr Gabriel Silvestre talks about the MSc Cities and Global Development course. Gabriel Silvestre

Who should be interested in the course?

This course appeals to people interested in international development who would like to focus primarily on the challenges facing urban areas. It is also aimed at those who are interested in urban planning or urban design and want to explore these issues in the Global South – including understanding the socio-economic and political contexts in which planning takes place in the South. So it’s a course for people interested in issues such as how to create wealthier, fairer and more inclusive cities, how to manage challenges of rapid urban growth by trying to create jobs and housing for all, and how to build sustainable and resilient cities, including in contexts of conflict or extreme environmental vulnerability.

What does the MSc offer?

This MSc offers a package that we believe to be unique in the UK: a Masters programme drawing on both Development Studies and Urban Studies that is professionally accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute, contains an international field class, and offers the potential for students to undertake a group-based consultancy project for an external client as part of their course. The programme builds on our department’s history of five decades of academic excellence in the field of urban planning education and research, complemented by the university’s expertise in relation to global development issues, including through links to the Sheffield Institute of International Development. Students will be taught by staff who conduct research in countries as diverse as India, Chile, Uganda, China, Egypt, South Africa and Turkey.

What will graduates do after the course?

Our department has excellent employability ratings. Graduates from the department go on to take up top positions in, for example, international planning consultancies, government authorities both in the UK and abroad, NGOs, property development firms, transport and infrastructure providers and environmental organisations. We anticipate that graduates of this course will follow a similar employment profile, though obviously mainly focusing on the international side. For example, graduates from our Masters courses have gone on to work for UN-HABITAT, the main UN organisation concerned with global urban challenges.