MSc. Specialisation: Urban Strategies and Planning (USP)

In today’s context of an overwhelming urban world population, rapidly growing cities with informal housing, social deprivation and economic decline, the Urban Strategies and Planning (USP) specialisation analyses urban socio-spatial dynamics from an urban planning perspective.

The specialisation departs from the concept of spatial justice understood “not [as] a substitute or alternative to social, economic, or other forms of justice but rather a way of looking at justice from a critical spatial perspective” (Soja, 2009). It analyses the spatial distribution of wealth, services and opportunities; the representations of identities, social positions and practices in space as well as in decision-making on the city.

From this perspective, USP critically reflects on planning:

  • What is (strategic) planning and why do we do it?
  • In which way and to what extent can planning influence spatial justice?
  • How to integrate the physical and spatial dimensions of planning with the social and economic ones?
  • How can the interests of different stakeholders be balanced to ensure equity?
  • How to create synergies and gain commitment, and how to deal with conflicts when they emerge?

Rather than providing answers we encourage the attitude of “reflective practice”.

The specialisation has a different thematic focus every year (placemaking, social inclusion, food and the city) and takes place in the neighbourhoods of Rotterdam collaborating with urban actors such as the municipality and NGOs active in the city.

The overall learning objective of the course is to engage in reflective practice regarding urban planning and governance and its influence on socio-spatial dynamics.

Some of the specialisation activities have been shared as posts by our team members and students.

As part of the MSc, USP implements a one-week assignment for developing an action plan. Its aim is to improve the conditions of a deprived neighbourhood in Rotterdam which includes the interaction with the local stakeholders. The purpose of the exercise is to clarify the meaning and the techniques of action planning with the objective to help students to better understand the complexity of urban issues.

Examples of the final group work

Student’s testimonial

“The USP specialization offered me the perfect combination of studying highly relevant theoretical concepts and applying this theory to real world challenges. It gave us the opportunity to work with fellow students to develop an integrated urban strategy for an area in Rotterdam, and also to individually analyze planning processes in a city of our choice.” – Keenan Jackson, Australia, master’s student 2013-2014.

MSc. Specialisation: Urban Strategies and Planning (USP)


Alexander JachnowHead of Urban Strategies and Planning (USP)
Saskia RuijsinkSenior Expert, Urban Policy and Planning
Els KeunenExpert, Urban Planning and Municipal Development
Alexandra TsatsouExpert, Urban Strategic Planning & Climate Resilience Expert
Carolina LunettaUrban Management Expert
Carley PenninkHead, International Projects and Advisory Services
Linda ZuijderwijkResearcher - European research-project TRANSIT
Alonso AyalaSenior Expert, Housing
Maartje van EerdSenior Expert, Housing & Social Development
Marijk HuysmanSenior Expert, Urban Sociologist