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SP20365: Urban worlds: cities, citizens and society

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Intermediate (FHEQ level 5)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW100
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Assessment detail for this unit will be available shortly.
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: 1. Explain how cities and urban life have developed and what they mean for social life through a range of scientific, journalistic, and artistic documents and accounts.
2. Identify the social, political, economic, and environmental processes that drive urbanisation and shape urban life.
3. Critically analyse how cities and urban life are shaped by intersecting inequalities, i.e. gender, race and class.
4. Reflect on the present and future of cities and urban life in the context of climate change.

Aims: This unit aims to offer an introduction to the sociological study of cities and urban life. The course asks students to engage with the various ways in which social scientists have analysed the city, from the early fascination with metropolitan life to contemporary concerns with citizenship, urban inequalities and sustainability. The course aims to introduce students to key theory and concepts in urban sociology and urban studies, and engage with key representations of cities and urban life, including short stories, novels, documentaries, and films. In doing so, the unit aims to show the central role that urban worlds have played in the making of modern life and of ways of analysing and studying it.

Skills: The unit will foster the following intellectual skills:
* The ability to draw on and synthesise evidence from a range of sources
* The ability to assess the merits and appropriateness of different explanations for urban life
* The ability to develop a reasoned argument and exercise critical judgement The unit will foster the following professional/practical skills:
* The ability to critically reflect on different theoretical/methodological approaches within sociology
* Written and oral communication skills The unit will foster the following transferable/key skills:
* The ability to develop and present a well-structured, coherent essay.
* The ability to marshal evidence and theory to support or challenge an argument in such a way as to demonstrate a critical awareness of the origin and bases of knowledge
* The ability to apply key concepts in sociology and cognate disciplines to a range of problems
* The ability to work and communicate as individuals, as well as in a team
* Skills in information technology
* Critical and analytical skills.

Content: The unit is organised around four main themes:
1. Foundational theories of urbanisation and urban life. This theme analyses key theories that have sought to explain how cities are produced, how urban life is experienced, and what these mean for social life at large.
2. Understanding urban inequalities. This theme explores how cities are produced and experienced in unequal ways, focusing on questions of race, gender, and class and their intersections, as well as how these have represented beyond the social sciences.
3. The everyday politics of urban life. This theme engages with the various forms in which politics shape the experience of urban life, focusing on matters such as housing and gentrification; citizenship, expertise and political participation; and the shifting notions of publicness and public space.
4. Urban ecologies. This theme focuses on how the relation between cities and nature has been analysed in a range of textual and audio-visual documents, and reflects on the sustainability challenges that urban worlds face today and in the future. 

Programme availability:

SP20365 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 2)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.