Programme Description

Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that offers an in-depth understanding of cities and processes of urban and regional development. Cities are powerhouses of economic growth and human creativity, yet they also contribute to many of the most pressing contemporary challenges. Today, the processes of urbanisation that give rise to cities are of a scale never before seen in human history. As such, understanding the human condition is now inevitably an urban question. So, if you are a student who is curious about the city, enthralled by its physical forms, energised by its culture, troubled by its social injustices, worried about its environmental harms, or enthusiastic about its economic and creative potentials, you will find a unique liberal arts opportunity in the Urban Studies major.

The Urban Studies major draws on the insights and approaches of a range of disciplines, including sociology, geography and environmental science, political science, anthropology, economics and history. The programme takes full advantage of our location and offers field-based learning opportunities in Singapore and other parts of Asia. Students may choose courses that offer breadth, or construct a pathway with a social science, humanities or environmental emphasis.

Students completing the Urban Studies major will:

  • Understand processes of urbanisation from a range of perspectives (political, economic, environmental, social and cultural);
  • Be familiar with key theoretical frameworks for explaining and analysing urbanisation;
  • Become familiar with a number of cities and urban forms – past and present, developed and less developed, planned and unplanned;
  • Learn about urban policy and planning frameworks;
  • Develop skills in spatial reasoning, including GIS and related modes of data gathering, analysis and visualisation;
  • Gain practical experience, through field-based learning and/or internships, of a number of urban contexts, conditions and institutions;
  • Acquire skills of research and critical thinking that are transferable to a range of social scientific, policy and community contexts.

Students who major in Urban Studies may go on to pursue careers in the corporate sector, the civil service, the academy, and non-for-profit organisations. Urban Studies is well suited to those with interests in public policy, development, advocacy, real estate and facilities management, planning and architecture, journalism, or social and community work. Students who complete majors in Urban Studies are well prepared for graduate school, both in terms of academic and professional programmes. Urban Studies students would be well prepared for higher degree programmes in anthropology, sociology, development studies, human geography, environmental studies and, of course, urban studies. They would also be prepared for professional higher degree training in architecture, planning, social work, international and community development, and public policy.


For Class of 2017 and Class of 2018

Students completing the Urban Studies major for Class of 2017 and Class of 2018 will take eight courses [50 modular credits (MC) equivalent) including a final-year capstone project, which is the equivalent of 10 MC.

Students selecting this major must complete:

One Introductory course: Introduction to Urban Studies (ordinarily taken in Year 2)

One Theory course: Urban Theory (ordinarily taken in Year 2 or Year 3)

At least one Methods Course (ordinarily taken in Year 2 or Year 3, prior to the capstone year): Students select at least one of the following offerings. In special circumstances, students may seek permission from the Head of Studies to substitute an alternate methods course.

  • Urban Spatial Reasoning and Visualisation
  • Methods in the Social Sciences

Up to five Topical or Methods Courses: At least two of these should be advanced (4000) courses.

Capstone: Urban Studio (taken in Year 4)

For Class of 2019 onwards

Students completing the Urban Studies major for Class of 2019 onwards will take nine courses (54-55 MC equivalent) including a final-year capstone project, which is the equivalent of 10 MC. Four of the nine courses are required courses, as specified below. Two of the required courses are urban related, methods courses, which should be taken before your senior capstone year, so you are well prepared for the independent research required by the capstone. The remaining five courses comprise topical course electives, at least one of which should be at the 4000 level.

4 Required Courses

  • Introduction to Urban Studies (ordinarily taken in Year 1 or 2)
  • Urban Theory (ordinarily taken in Year 2 or Year 3, and preferably before Year 4)
  • Two approved Methods Courses (ordinarily taken in Year 2 or Year 3, prior to the capstone)

One of the methods courses must offer skills in urban spatial reasoning and can include: Urban Spatial Reasoning & Visualisation AND/OR GIS & Demographics (first offered AY2017/18), or a course approved by the Head of Study.

The other methods course can be selected from any methods courses cross-listed to Urban Studies, or one approved by the Head of Study.  Examples of methods courses cross-listed to Urban Studies include:

      • Methods In The Social Sciences
      • Ethnography
      • The Historian’s Craft
      • Econometrics
      • Documentary Photography
      • Art Ethnography

5 Topical Course Electives

Five Urban Studies topical courses, at least one of which should be an advanced (4000) course.

Capstone: Urban Studio (taken in Year 4)


The minor in Urban Studies requires the completion of five courses, excluding the capstone. Students taking a minor must complete Introduction To Urban Studies and Urban Theory.


Introduction To Urban Studies

This course offers an introduction to the central concerns of urban studies illustrated by way of real world examples.

Urban Spatial Reasoning & Representation

This course provides an introduction to spatial reasoning and methods, including GIS and other spatial analysis and visualisation techniques relevant to the analysis of urban environments and processes.

Urban Theory

This course offers students in-depth exposure key theoretical thinkers in the field of Urban Studies.

Topical Courses

A range of topical courses is offered in the Urban Studies major. Examples include:

  • Social Life Of The City
  • Urbanisation In China
  • Living On The Edge: The Experience Of Peri-Urbanisation
  • Community Development
  • Creative Cities
  • Cities Of The Global South
  • Urban Political Ecology
  • Urban Economics
  • Urbanisation And The Environment
  • Living In The Metropolis. The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Megacities


The capstone project gives students the opportunity to explore a specialised topic by way of supervised, independent research. The capstone project should make an original contribution to a particular empirical, theoretical or methodological question within the field of Urban Studies. Projects must be based on field or archival research, or the analysis of existing data sets (quantitative, visual or textual).

The capstone project in Urban Studies is supported through the Urban Studio, which is a regular seminar, meeting, advising and reporting space. This complements the student-supervisor relationship. In Semester 1 of Year 4, the Urban Studio is used to support the development of the capstone project (research design, data collection and/or analysis, literature review). In Semester 2 of Year 4, the Urban Studio offers an occasional forum for the presentation of, and constructive feedback on, draft versions of the final work.

Students majoring in Urban Studies can elect to submit their final assessed work in one of three formats:

  • A 10,000 word written report in academic format, and an Urban Studio final presentation;
  • A multimedia work (e.g. film, photographic essay) with a 5,000 word written report, and an Urban Studio final presentation;
  • A visualisation/analysis (e.g. GIS, CAD, etc.), with a 5,000 word written report, and an Urban Studio final presentation.

Students seeking to complete a capstone in formats 2 or 3 must gain the approval of the Head of Studies in Semester 2 of Year 3. Approval will be contingent upon whether the student is considered to have acquired the appropriate skills prior to the capstone year, and there being appropriate supervision available