Obligatory courses (year 1)

The New Science of Cities

Why people (want to) live in cities and firms agglomerate, is central in much geographical research. But more than location factors are needed to explain the concentration of people and business. The “new science of cities” argues that in order to understand cities, we should not conceptualise them merely as places, but much more as systems of networks in which flows circulate. Flows of talent, of foreign investments, of migrating people, of information, in social networks, across cultures. Flows that require embedding within local infrastructures, and linking local with regional and (inter)national infrastructures. Networks that co-determine how individuals and entrepreneurs settle and function in cities and urban regions, how a quality of life is created that makes people happy and healthy and firms productive and competitive in cities. Networks that also co-determine “winning” and “losing” groups in local societies, that may induce economic, social and planning policies and interventions, requiring a mixture of established and new forms of governance (multi-actor networks).

In this course from two related dimensions of the new science of cities will be studied: (1) the dimension of individuals and their households and (2) the dimension of entrepreneurs:
1. The number of ways in which individuals and households in Western societies can structure their daily lives as well as their life course has increased greatly in response to technological, economic, social and cultural developments. This has contributed to the strong individualization of these societies. Because of these transformation processes, patterns of activities, movement, interaction, and communication will become increasingly fragmented and heterogeneous. Not only at the daily but also on the life course level fragmentation occurs.

For individuals and their households two temporal scales are important. First, the scale of daily life which emphasizes the description and explanation of the progression of the daily paths through time and space as people participate in activities at home or elsewhere and its implications for meanings and development of flows and places. Second, the scale of the life course which deals especially with the description and explanation of changes in the domains of ‘work’, ‘home-making’ and ‘leisure’ but also with the links to the settling and departing of the households of residents in neighborhoods and cities at different stages of their life course.

Central to this individual/household dimension of the new science of cities is to develop a better understanding of the dynamics in and meanings of physical spatio-temporal contexts for the urban transformation processes. These contexts refer to the built environment, the presence of people, mobile objects and natural processes. Various contextual and situational approaches will be presented. The implications for spatial planning will also be discussed. 2. Innovation, regional and urban resilience and competitiveness are key issues in the new science of cities. From a system point of view, resilience is not only concerned with path-return after (global or local) economic shocks, but also with path creation. Central in this process is how innovative entrepreneurs operate on existing and new markets, and how urban and regional contexts co-determine the success of clusters and agglomerations. Innovative entrepreneurs and knowledge workers sort themselves into innovative environments and amenity-rich milieus – also environments that are dense in global network connections. The interplay between local development and positions in economic networks forms competitive cities of the 21st century.

Regional policy is served with good identification of their policy instruments and intentions. Depending on the goals of urban policy, equality, competitiveness, growth and innovation are often targeted by policymakers. Networks of firms, of entrepreneurs, of cities among themselves and of places within and between cities, are crucial in understanding urban-regional development, and the efficiency of policy instruments. The course will therefore focus on identifying evolutionary development trajectories of cities and regions, the resilience of regions, competitive advantages of regions and the governance and complementarities of regions in order to reach the course objectives. Students will work with multilevel and multivariate datasets on economic and statistical analyses, conduct interviews with policymakers, and actively collect literature and data on the issues studied. Policy initiatives at the urban level in The Netherlands, Europe and on a worldwide scale will be studied in depth.
Latest information about the course contents can be found in the course manual.

Quantitative Urban & Economic Analytics

The course will consist of a series of lectures on specific techniques, followed a few days later by a computer practical where the techniques are practiced on a given data set. The techniques addressed in this course include:

  • Linear regression
  • Logistic regression and ordered logit models
  • Multi-level analysis
  • Factor analysis
  • Cluster analysis
  • Network analysis

The last two weeks of the course, students will work on a loosely structured assignment, in which they answer a research question based on a given data set. The assignment includes choice of the appropriate technique(s), the appropriate variables, interpretation of the results and reporting all this in a working paper. Results will be presented in a seminar, where feedback is given by peers and supervisor.

Urban Social Dynamics

The following main themes will be addressed during this course:

  1. What is social inequality and which types of social and socio-spatial inequality can be discerned in cities? Which dimensions, such as income, gender, education and ethnicity are important markers of inequality? How are these dimensions interrelated?
  2. How can we explain the existence and development of several social and socio-spatial inequalities and their interrelations? Specific attention will be paid to social capital and social contacts, health and housing.
  3. How do aspects of urban inequality differ between countries?
  4. How do urban residents deal with inequality, in particula in their daily lives? Do residents of deprived (and often highly diverse) urban neighbourhoods have mechanisms to deal with unwished situations in their neighbourhoods, for example with bad housing conditions, criminality and fear? How do residents deal with diversity in their neighbourhood?
  5. Do neighbourhoods in cities have effects on their residents? Which mechanisms explain neighbourhood effects? To what extent has the role of the neighbourhood changed as a consequence of developments such as transnationalisation, ICT-developments and increased mobility?
  6. How can urban residents escape deprived situations? Which groups are better able to escape (for example by moving house) than others?
  7. Which policy actions exist to diminish social and socio-spatial inequality and how effective are they? Which policies lead (unintentionally) to an increase of social and socio-spatial inequality?

Latest information about the course contents can be found in the course manual.

Doing Qualitative Reserach in Dynamic Urban settings

This course on qualitative data collection addresses both theoretical and practical dimensions of conducting qualitative research. Data collection concerns are embedded within the larger processes of qualitative research methods and must be considered in holistic ways. For example, data collection decisions are inherently tied to particular epistemological stances and theoretical orientations as well as to the research focus. In addition, data collection processes are interwoven with analysis and often occur simultaneously. The course is designed with flexibility so that you will be able to develop projects that will suit your own academic and professional needs.

Detailed information about the course content and the research project can be found in the course manual.

Urban Resilience

The following main themes will be dealt with during this course:

  1. In this course, we ask why some cities or regions are able to survive major shocks, crises and sustained periods of decline while others ultimately collapse. In a global context of financial crises, raising inequality and climate change, this question is becoming increasingly prominent on the political agenda.
  2. Understanding urban resilience first requires to adopt a dynamic view of the economic structure of cities/regions. Resilient cities/regions are not always the biggest or the ones that experienced a fast growth in the past. They are the ones that are able to quickly adapt to changing economic, social and environmental conditions.
  3. How can cities/regions re-invent themselves and continuously find new economic paths? This question deeply challenges our understanding of cities/regions and the role of urban and regional policy. Resilient cities/regions are characterized by an intense process of creative-destruction, in which sustained periods of growth also means abandoning obsolete sectors, modes of work organization and institutional practices. In resilience thinking, what can be considered economically efficient in the short run can also lock them in and accelerate their decline in the long run. This is for instance the case when intense economic specialization comes at the expense of economic diversity, further exposing cities to economic shocks while limiting their opportunities to find new growth paths.

Writing Competences

Academics spend a great deal of time writing publications in peer reviewed scientific journals. This course focuses on English academic writing and the scientific criteria for the assessment of publications. The seminars on English academic writing will help students to bring their linguistic skills up to standard and improve their ability in argumentation. The students also learn how to identify an innovative topic for a publication, how to structure an article and to address key problems in the process of writing the various sections of scientific publications. Besides, students get familiar with criteria for reviewing papers submitted to journals and learn to apply these criteria on the papers written in this course. The student makes the choice for a topic and journal after consultation of the lecturer. In seminars the students discuss each other’s products. The lecturer gives feedback on the discussion and papers written by the students.

Latest information about the course contents can be found in the course manual.

Developing a master thesis proposal

Writing a good research proposal is important for all researchers. All research, curiosity-driven as well as contract research, should be based on well-written proposals. In the course, students will learn how to formulate and how to assess a good scientific research proposal for their thesis.

The thesis proposal is one of the three components of the thesis contract (see Appendix). The other two elements are the Study period abroad and the Time plan. All students need to have an approved Thesis proposal, Study period abroad and Time plan. In case one of these components is assessed as insufficient students are not allowed to continue with their master thesis after the fourth term of the first year nor their study period abroad.

The lecturer of the course Master’s Thesis: Developing a Thesis Design will assess and grade the Thesis proposal. The Study period abroad and the Time plan will be assessed by the programme director.

This course is an entry requirement for: “International master’s thesis publication: Continuation, mid-term and final assessment” (GEO3-3639)

Key Thinkers in Urban and Economic Geography

The idea of the course Key Thinkers is to provide students with the latest advances of core topics in economic and urban geography (by way of seminars given by top scholars in these topics). The aim is to get students acquainted with these major developments. A seminar will be given by a scholar (usually from outside UU) in which at least one recent article within a major development in the field is presented and discussed. Before each seminar, a tutorial will be organized in which students will prepare for the seminar by reading and discussing the most recent literature that has, in one way or another, a relation with the seminar’s presentation. In this way, students will prepare themselves for the seminar and will be able to interact with key scholars - by posing challenging questions/remarks –, who personally contributed with their own work to the field. Students will write a paper (review of the literature) in one of these core topics.

Obligatory courses (year 2)

Master thesis: guided research abroad and scientific publication

The thesis will be finished in March (for thesis report) or in April (for thesis publication). The final thesis must meet the following criteria:

  • the thesis is embedded in previous research and literature on the topic of the thesis;
  • the thesis includes a theoretical elaboration of the research problem, based on the relevant international literature;
  • it is based on sound research questions;
  • it is based on an independent collection of empirical data from primary and/or secondary sources;
  • it includes empirical testing of some implications of the applied theories or theoretical notions.

The progress of the research project will be presented for other Research Master students and staff members in January. The final thesis will be presented in June for first and second year RM students. Both presentations are obligatory.
On the basis of the thesis, scientific publication should be written.

The choice for a peer reviewed scientific journal to publish the article is made by the student after consultation of the thesis’ supervisor. The length, structure and style of writing will be determined by the journal. The supervisor gives guidance to the student in regular meetings. The articlecouldbesubmittedto the selectedjournal.

Some good reading material before the course starts:

This course is an entry requirement for: Scientific Research Proposal (GEO4-3624)

Scientific Research Proposal

On the basis of the thesis, a scientific research proposal should be written.

The research proposal should focus on an original topic expressed in a well-formulated goal and research questions. It should include a theoretical overview of the relevant literature and a sound design for empirical research and analytical methods. The proposal counts approximately ten pages. The final version of the research proposal should satisfy the standards of research proposals for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The research proposals of research Masters students who will become PhD students should be submitted to NWO for the ‘Open Competition’ or suitable research programmes. The proposal should have the following format:

  • goal and research questions;
  • theoretical framework;
  • methodology;
  • scientific relevance;
  • societal relevance;
  • financial overview;
  • overview of proposed products;
  • time schedule.

Communication Competences

The transfer of knowledge from science to society, also called valorisation, is very important. This issue will be addressed in three ways:

  1. By exploring and discussing the relationships between social problems and research with an emphasis on conditions that favour the utilisation of social science research in policy making;
  2. By developing social communication and process consulting skills. In a series of seminars students will be trained in these skills in interaction with each other, a consultant and potential clients;
  3. By defining and planning projects within larger research programmes and research networks.

Another objective of the course is focussed on a reflection of students on the theoretical, methodological and philosophical choices they have made in their master thesis. This reflection will be based on the course Academic Competences I in which they have studied the foundations of the social sciences and contemporary Human Geography and Planning. The student will participate in a series of tutorials and presentations.The last part of the course will consist of a self-reflection on the students' goals and progress in the Research Masters programme. This paper of approximately 1,000 words will be submitted by e-mail to the coordinator of the course.