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Master Sustainable Cities

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  • Objectives
    The degree combines pure and applied research methods from human and physical geography leading to an advanced level understanding of contemporary debates about sustainable cities. Specific foci will be the human and physical processes shaping urban ecologies, environments and social structure and process.
  • Entry requirements
    people with :1 first degree, or overseas equivalent. We will consider other degree subjects and/or relevant work experience in the environmental sector. Part-time students welcome.
  • Academic Title
    MSc, PG Dip Sustainable Cities
  • Course description
    Programme description
    - Unique in the UK it is the only MSc to address sustainable cities explicitly.
    - Progrmme is interdisciplinary.
    - Internships are available.

    The programme will focus on the human and physical processes shaping urban ecologies and environments. Four core modules will underpin the MSc Changing Cities and Understanding & Managing the Urban Environmental System. Both are based on lectures, seminars and fieldwork and will form the core theoretical components. Changing Cities evaluates the political and policy challenges in seeking to create sustainable cities and explores theories and ideas relating to sustainable urbanism.

    Urban Environmental Systems explores the knowledge for understanding urban environmental systems and developing sustainable environmental management strategies for cities. Methods for Environmental Research and Research Methods in Human Geography provide the core methodological environmental and social science components respectively. You can choose both methods modules or opt for the one that best suits your interests.

    Core modules will give a solid basis for developing and executing a piece of focused research presented in the form of a dissertation, also a compulsory element of the MSc. Two optional modules will be offered as part of the MSc so that course participants will have the opportunity to fine-tune their programme of learning in accordance with their interests. Examples of optional courses include Urban Regeneration; Sustainable Urbanisation; Techniques for Managing Environmental Change; Monitoring Environmental Change; Environmental GIS and Environmental Internship.

    Programme format and assessment
    Continuous module assessment. Students must complete a compulsory dissertation and a module on research methods.

    Programme modules for MSc, PG Dip Sustainable Cities 

    Changing Cities
    (Core Module)
    The aim of the course is to explore the interrelationships between urbanisation and human lifestyles, ecology and environment, and to critically evaluate the role of urban planning and practices in influencing patterns of human interaction in cities. A core focus is on debates about the impact of human activities on the functioning of cities, and how far such activities are sustainable, in social, economic, political, and environmental terms.

    Dissertation (Core Module)
    The dissertation provides an opportunity for students to follow their own interests by investigating a particular issue in depth. The objective of the dissertation is for students to design and execute a research project on a subject of their own choice. The dissertation should identify a research problem and attempt to 'solve' it through the collection and analysis of primary or secondary data. The dissertation should be written as if it was to be submitted to an academic journal for publication, with a clear statement of objectives, an assessment of the merits of undertaking this piece of research (eg lack of knowledge about it, disagreements in the literature, failure of previous studies to consider certain potential causal circumstances), an explanation and justification of the methods and data that have been used, an evaluation of the results obtained and a consideration of how the research has met its original aims. Students are expected to present dissertations that are based on original research, involving empirical analysis or computer simulation. Special permission must be sought from the Master's Tutor for a dissertation to be entirely philosophical or conceptual in content. Opportunity will be made available in the Practising Social Research 1/Methods for Environmental Research modules (where applicable) in the first semester to discuss appropriate projects and a design for the research project must be produced and will be examined.

    Methods for environmental research (Core Module)
    This module aims to provide a background in issues and methods involved in doing environmental research, including research methods and design. To achieve this, the module consists of a series of lectures, seminars, and practicals giving an overview of methods in designing, analyzing, presenting and evaluating environmental research. A subcomponent of this module will be an additional unassessed but required set of practicals and seminars giving a overview of laboratory and field equipment available in the KCL Department of Geography. On completion of this module, the student will be able to define the features of environmental problems and will be able to assess environmental investigations in terms of their design strategies for collection of data, data analysis, and results presentation. When taken with SG/5111 the students will be fully equipped to carry out their own independent research into environmental problems using these methodologies.

    PRACTISING SOCIAL RESEARCH I: Understanding the Fundamentals (Core Module)
    This module enables students to derive a greater understanding of the relationship between methodology and method and the related notions of epistemology and ontology. The module is a mix of lectures and tutorials and enables students to develop skills in the appropriate use and application of quantitative and qualitative methods, which will have been worked through in tutorial sessions. The module lays the conceptual groundwork for the design of the dissertation and enables students to appreciate the connections between epistemology and the students particular programme of study

    Understanding and Managing the Urban Environmental System (Core Module)
    This module aims to provide key knowledge and understanding of the urban atmospheric system to support the development of sustainable environmental management strategies for cities. Specifically the module will: - identify the major atmospheric issues that are likely to compromise the sustainability of cities; critically assess the relevance and utility of current environmental legislation in the context of urban atmospheric management and sustainability; critically examine current knowledge concerning the measurement and modelling of the flows of energy (heat) and mass (water and gases) between the urban surface and the atmosphere as a basis for understanding urban atmospheric dynamics and managing the outcomes of urbanisation; identify the nature of urban atmospheric science required to serve urban sustainability policy needs.

    Environmental GIS
    This module enables students to capture spatial GIS data from a variety of sources, to assess and manage spatial data quality, to integrate and analyse these data within the latest business and research standard GIS environments. The module focuses particularly on the integrated use of spatial (GIS) data alongside remote sensing technologies and simulation models for better understanding and managing the natural environment. Various aspects of spatial and spatio-temporal analysis are covered and the role of GIS in supporting management decisions is emphasised. Course materials focus on the physical environment and ecological systems but include socio-economic information where necessary.

    Environmental Internship
    This module enables students to understand the main opportunities and constraints facing the policy-influencing capacities of environmental organisations, through the medium of an internship placement with an NGO. Students gain insights into the workings of environmental organisations and a feel for the day-to-day working practices of environmental activists. While on placement students learn how to collect/process environmental information relevant to the campaigning activities of environmental organisations, and subsequently put together a structured and coherent report reflecting on their practical experience.

    Monitoring Environmental Change
    This module introduces students to the details and practicalities of environmental monitoring, using a variety of methodologies and measurement techniques, specifically using electronic-based sensors and instrumentation. Students acquire the skills to manipulate raw field, laboratory and logged data for analysis, to monitor, measure and analyse data on environmental stores and fluxes, and to interpret, analyse and present field and laboratory data clearly in written reports in order to explain processes operating in the environmental system under investigation. Students will also gain experience to design field or laboratory based research projects to monitor environmental systems, making use of appropriate field, laboratory and measurement equipment. Field monitoring methods are taught in the context of atmospheric environments, catchment monitoring, fluvial systems, hydrological processes, complemented with a practical fieldwork exercise.

    Sustainable Urbanisation
    The module examines the influence of historical urbanisation paths as constraining factors on the production of geographies of urban environmental risk and security. Theorise the relationships between social structures and human agency in negotiating the distribution of risk and vulnerability in the city. Examine the utility of environmental risk as a lens for viewing crises of urban development. Through grounded case study analysis to identify the complexity of living in places of urban risk and vulnerability, to unpack the interaction of urban livelihood sustainability with vulnerability and the tensions that come from the demands of living in poverty and with vulnerability.

    Techniques for Managing Environmental Change at the Earth's surface
    The module enables students to have contact and presentations from a number of personnel directly involved in environmental management in the commercial world. It gives students an understanding of the interdisciplinary processes involved in environmental management, enabling students to design management solutions to a number of environmental problems. It enables students to present the results of an environmental management investigation both orally and in a written report.

    Urban Regeneration
    The module reviews the experience of urban regeneration in the context of post second world war urban policy and developments. This is done mainly from a British perspective but North American and European examples are drawn up and it is hoped that Professor Bob Beauregard who is a leading North American urban scholar and a visiting professor will lead one session. The first part of the module discusses the experience of urban decline and resurgence over the last half century. In the second half we look at a number of specific issues including the conflict between the concepts regeneration and gentrification, the role of culture and in particular focus on the regeneration of East London and the role of the Olympic Games. In the final week, there is an East London fieldtrip which includes a visit to the Olympic site (subject to continuing access being granted).

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