Research Master's programme Global Urban Transformations
Image to support research Master's programme Global Urban Transformations

Are you interested in what it takes to make cities sustainable, inclusive, and resilient? How do cities plan for tomorrow's citizens, infrastructures and climate? Do you want to learn more about the challenge of governing cities in light of global economic, ecological and social transformations? And are you a motivated, research-minded student? If so, then the research Master’s programme in Global Urban Transformations might be just what you're looking for!

Our intensive research Master's programme will immerse you in the social, spatial, ecological and economic transformations of cities and urban regions. Over the course of two years, the research Master will equip you with a solid theoretical and methodological foundation for an advanced (research) professional or academic career.

Please note: The Global Urban Transformations Master's programme will start in September 2023.

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Programme introduction
Picture by Stijn Doors

21st-Century Urban and Regional Challenges and Opportunities

Rapid changes are occurring in cities around the world as a result of globalisation, urbanisation, and migration. Cities and regions have to deal with the conflicts resulting from increasing socioecological and health crises, inequalities, competition, migration flows and infrastructural renewal. But at the same time, these changes generate opportunities and innovation. Several global initiatives, including the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, stress the importance of making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable to adapt to and prepare for these political, ecological and economic threats. As a student in this research Master’s programme, you will analyse fundamental transformations that take place in cities all over the world with theories and methods from multiple disciplines connected to human geography. All these changes have long-lasting spatial and social effects and have resulted in new dynamics of inclusion as well as exclusion in cities worldwide.

Transformations and Governance

As a research Master's student, you will identify the complexities of developing, planning, and governing cities in the context of global transformations. What are the opportunities, assets, conflicts, contestations, and dilemmas that arise during transformation processes, and how can they be resolved? How do these processes shape the local spaces where people live, study and work? In your role as a human geographer concerned with sustainability, resilience and inclusivity of people and places, you will master a multi-scalar approach to understand how global forces intersect with local conditions, as well as how they create opportunities and barriers for cities therein. You will also develop critical thinking skills regarding current approaches and instruments for the governance of urban transformations.

The need for researchers capable of analysing the complexity of contemporary urban issues is growing rapidly. Beyond creating foundations for a PhD, studying the issues covered by this Master's programme will prepare you for a career in research-oriented NGO’s, industries and public administrations.

Leading scholars from the fields of urban geography, economic geography, international development studies, and spatial planning will teach and actively participate in this Master's degree programme, bringing expertise and experience from research across the globe.

Skills and Ethics in Research

Having a strong focus on theories and methods, this research Master’s programme aims to attract highly qualified students with a passion for academic research. You will acquire advanced skills in both qualitative and quantitative methods. As part of the programme, you will conduct your own research, participate in collective research projects at our department and discuss your findings with your intellectual peers and societal stakeholders. As a member of the research community at the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning of Utrecht University, you'll be trained to become a critical urban thinker.

Why in Utrecht?
Cityscape of Utrecht

Global Urban Transformations is the Netherlands’ largest research Master's programme in human geography and spatial planning. The Human Geography and Spatial Planning department at Utrecht University is renowned for its high academic standards. In The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Ranking, Utrecht University is ranked third in the 2021 Global Rankings of Academic Subjects Geography. International students are a significant part of our enrolment: about 60 to 70% are from outside the Netherlands. Students are trained in fundamental and strategic research in fields relevant to academic and professional careers. This programme is unique in the Netherlands and around the world because of the following:

Research Orientation

The programme provides students with an excellent preparation for conducting research in academic, policy, and consulting environments. At Utrecht University, Global Urban Transformations takes a research-oriented approach centred on theoretical concepts and the development of methodological skills. As part of your Master's thesis, you can select from a wide range of topics related to Global Urban Transformations under the supervision of leading academics.

The research Master’s programme Global Urban Transformations is part of the Urban Futures Research programme run by the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning. This research programme focuses on how ongoing global transformative dynamics around urbanisation and infrastructure, climate change, globalisation, and technological change affect how human societies live and work. In the latest national Research Assessment Exercise, the Urban Futures Research Programme received high ratings for quality and innovation, while its strong policy and societal relevance were lauded. Through your studies, you can immerse yourself in this challenging research environment and develop a network of contacts that will be helpful as you begin your career.

Educational Approach

A key feature of the research Master’s Global Urban Transformations is teaching and learning in a small-scale setting and the application of knowledge and skills to real-world challenges. Our highly qualified and committed research staff will provide you with frequent feedback and assistance. By offering courses in small groups, the programme allows for extensive interaction between staff and students, as well as among students themselves.

International Focus

As part of the programme's strong international focus, we encourage students to study abroad and provide dedicated room for extensive fieldwork and exchanges in the curriculum. Furthermore, as part of the Urban Futures Research Programme, you will be able to tap into a vast network of research institutions, organisations, and projects throughout the world. Research seminars and workshops are regularly held with international guests as part of the Urban Futures Research Programme. As a research student in Global Urban Transformations, you will have numerous opportunities to participate in these events and connect with this extensive global community.

Room for Customization

The Global Urban Transformations Master's programme offers many opportunities for you to specialise in a variety of topics in human geography and spatial planning by picking your own topics/readings for essays within courses. The second year offers extensive room for specialisation through electives, study abroad and internship opportunities and students choose their own preferred thesis topic.

Master's Open Day
A student talks with a visitor of the Master's Open Day

Our next Master’s Open Day will take place on Wednesday 12 October 2022.

Our webinars give you the opportunity to learn about the Master’s programmes you are interested in. Experience the stories of our students and staff, ask your questions, and discover whether Global Urban Transformations is the right choice for you!

Click on the button below to receive an email once registrations are open.