Curriculum Overview


The USPP programme integrates three core focus areas to provide a comprehensive educational experience:

• Urban Theory Core Courses provide students with a foundation that incorporates centuries of critical thinking about cities, and reviews historical and emerging urban planning paradigms.

• Urban Data and Methods Core Courses teach social science research methodologies, Geographic Information Science (GIS) and relevant data science techniques such as machine learning, network analysis and interactive data visualization. These courses train USPP students to effectively collect, analyse and present data in the context of urban planning and policy.

• Urban Practice and Policy Core Courses prepare students to critically assess, understand and craft evidence-based policies and programmes, while being attuned to the institutional context of urban economics, politics and governance.

The USPP programme is structured into three terms. In the first term, students complete three integrated courses across the core areas, and a course on leadership and planning in Singapore. In addition, an Urban Symposium brings students outside of the classroom to learn from policy makers and practitioners at key development projects in and around Singapore.

During the second term, students participate in an advanced course on Urban Data and Methods, two elective modules and a research studio, where students execute a research project that utilizes their skills in data science and urban analysis.

Finally, in the third term, students conduct an independent research project in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

Course Overview


TERM 1
Required Courses

This course exposes students to foundational theories and key socio-economic processes and trends that have given shape and meaning to urban development across a number of time periods and cultural contexts. Through an emphasis on the historical and future drivers of change in cities, students will relate theories of the social and physical evolution of cities to structural change, social and political movements, technological advancements, and public policy that impacts urban systems more generally.

This course introduces fundamental research methodologies in urban analysis. It covers a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods, from spatial and statistical analysis and machine learning to survey design and ethnography. Students will be trained to understand when (and for which questions) different methods might yield the most appropriate answers. An emphasis is placed on how to reason and approach real world issues through data, rigorously highlight interrelationships and make pointed inquiries into what causal factors may exist in order to generate insights for decision making.

This course contends with some of the practical problems and issues faced by urban planners and policy-makers. Using real world examples in a complex environment, the course gives students an introduction to an array of techniques and approaches used to analyse projects, policies, and other changes impacting cities, including some of their limitations. The course will also provide an overview of key processes and lessons to enable new, innovative policies and practices to take hold within governance systems.

Singapore is widely seen as a successfully planned and managed global city. This course examines the policy choices and strategies Singapore has made and continues to make to become a sustainable global city and, increasingly, a smart city and smart nation. Attention will be paid to the opportunities, as well as the challenges and constraints that accompany this transformation. Students will have the unique opportunity to learn from senior Singapore leaders who have or had a role in the planning and shaping of Singapore.

As part of the four core courses in the first terms, students will attend a series of lectures, workshops and symposia at specific site locations around Singapore, organised in collaboration with government and private partners. This series will expose students to innovative urban projects and solutions, while highlighting the challenges and opportunities that institutions in Singapore are grappling with. The Urban Symposium Series will enable students to contextualise what they learn in their coursework within current day events, and help to stimulate ideas for the Research Studio and Individual Research Project.

TERM 2
Required Courses

This course focuses on quantitative and computational approaches to urban analytics and data science. It exposes students to new ways of collecting large datasets (“big data”) and innovative methods of analysing such datasets. It draws on both more conventional methods such as spatial statistics and Geographic Information Systems, as well as how to appropriately use methods from data science and machine learning within an urban context.

In the Research Studio, students complete a research project on a relevant and timely topic selected by the faculty team. The Studio provides a rigorous test bed in which students can gain practical experience in framing research questions and problem statements, collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data, and finding compelling ways to synthesize and communicate their findings.

Electives (2)
Theory

Many of the most influential ideas in the history of urbanism were unbuilt, remaining in the realm of imagery. This course will trace this phenomenon from the early years of the modern project, in designs driven by ideology, religion, ecology, and industry. Beginning with David Dale’s social experiment at New Lanark, we will proceed to the Saline Royale of Claude LeDoux, Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City, Charles Garnier’s Cite Industrielle, LeCorbusier’s Ville Radieuse, to the fantastic technological visions of Constant and Archigram. This trajectory will conclude with more recent examples of ecological planned cities in China and the Middle East, by OMA, Norman Foster, and others. Accompanying reading will establish connections between these works and their guiding theoretical underpinnings. The course will also consider influential films and literary visions of the city, incorporating the work of Jacques Tati, Fritz Lang, Aldous Huxley, Thomas More, Bruno Schulz, and JG Ballard.

Buildings help to build social life itself. More than just mute products of human design or the contextual backdrops of human activity, they play key causal roles in (re)configuring social relations, cultural, religious, and political identities, and sensibilities about historical and geographical belonging. At the same time, active human processes of dwelling in turn imbue houses and other architectural structures with significance, meaning, and memory that transcend their material forms. Using the past and present architectural fabric of Singapore and the surrounding region as illustrative inspiration, this course offers an introduction to anthropological approaches to architecture and the built environment. It provides students with conceptual tools to understand the interactions between humans (in all of their social, cultural,  and historical diversity) and their built surroundings.

When tsunamis flood cities, earthquakes turn highways to rubble, and epidemics of disease break out, we blame Nature for bringing disaster onto human populations.  Yet the fault lines of disaster fall along pathways laid out by human activities and plans, bringing unequal affliction to the vulnerable, and exposing the role of technology and design in shaping–as well as mitigating–disaster. Drawing concepts and methods from across the social sciences, this course explores the human, social and cultural dimensions of natural and technological disasters.

Data and Methods
This course teaches students the concepts, skills and techniques of online, interactive map design and data visualization. In doing so, it covers both the modern web development workflow and Javascript programming. These fundamental programming tools and techniques are mastered in an applied context of designing and building interactive visualizations. Apart from a foundational understanding of the building blocks of the modern web (HTML, CSS, Javascript), students learn to build visualizations using industry-standard Javascript libraries such as Leaflet and D3 through a series of lab-based assignments and projects. The course keeps a focus on the entire iterative design workflow throughout the semester and culminates in a final group project in which a sequence of prototypes leads to a final online, interactive data visualization.
Practice and Policy

This course provides students with an understanding of current challenges and opportunities in land transportation. It introduces road vehicle propulsion technologies and transportation systems modelling, including the tools and methods to assess technologies and system performance. Topics include conventional and alternative vehicle powertrains, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), transportation network modelling, traffic simulation, and travel demand modelling.

This course explores how cities become smart; how they stay smart; and how they can thrive in the face of digital transformation and disruption. It traces the evolution of the smart city, as well as the technologies, systems, and urban infrastructure that underpin it. The case for and the criticisms against smart cities are examined, with a strong emphasis on the human and social dimensions.

Drawing on the lessons that have been learnt by smart cities around the world, we study the policies that enable the smart city, especially in the context of the economic and societal opportunities and challenges created. The course also looks into the future to explore how current and emerging trends, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the advent of the Digital Economy and Digital Society will shape the smart city, and what our responses might be.

TERM 3
Required Courses

The final term is dedicated for students to complete an individual Research Project. Students receive hands-on guidance in the form of weekly meetings with faculty, as well as structured support from their peers. Working professionals can scope a project in collaboration with their employer, subject to faculty approval.