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MPhil Degree in Southern Urbanism

MPhil Degree in Southern Urbanism

MPhil Degree in Southern Urbanism

General Information

Please Note: Application deadline is: 31st August every year (This applies to both Local and International Applicants)



  1. Introduction
  2. Summary of information for applicants
  3. The Curriculum
  4. Entrance requirements
  5. Application process
  6. International Students
  7. Scholarship and Funding
  8. Accommodation
  9. Core Faculty
  10. University Of Cape Town Steering Committee
  11. International Advisory Board



Fostering the next generation of urban scholars from Africa rooted in Southern city perspectives.

The 21st century is irrefutably urban. The epicentre of the world is irrevocably shifting to Asia and Africa at a blurring pace. A multitude of environmental, economic and social crises manifest in cities, instigating cultural and political questions that are difficult to answer. This knowledge vacuum points to a profound epistemic crisis as taken-for-granted cultural assumptions about the academic canon have been laid bare.

At the African Centre for Cities (ACC), rooted at the University of Cape Town, we see this moment as an unprecedented opportunity to question what we mean by urban scholarship, and rigour, in order to fashion alternative ways of being researchers and teachers. However, this exploratory project demands a conscious effort to grow an ambitious cohort of black urbanists willing to equip themselves to build a new kind of urban studies, rooted in the realities and desires of the global South. To meet these goals, in 2018 ACC will launch the MPhil in Southern Urbanism.


Summary of information for applicants

The Masters in Southern Urbanism (an MPhil specialising in Urban Studies) is designed for students who have completed four-year bachelor degrees, as well as students with existing masters degrees, in specific disciplines. The programme has been designed to provide a rigorous theoretical as well as methodological foundation in interdisciplinary urban studies. It is intended as a bridgehead into PhD level research, producing skilled researchers able to conduct compelling doctoral research.


The Curriculum

The MPhil curriculum combines course work (50%) and a minor dissertation (50%), a full-time load completed over a period of 18 months. The language of instruction is English.

In year one students complete the Masters coursework, which includes a compulsory City Research Studio, a choice of two of three interdisciplinary urban modules, and an urban-focused elective.

At the heart of the MPhil is the City Research Studio that runs alongside the core and elective modules. It is a laboratory space where the students and faculty will learn to walk, see, smell, touch, embrace, explore and re-imagine the city through intimate engagements mediated by diverse research techniques. The analytical touchstone of the MPhil is “everyday urbanism” and coming to grips with this deceptively simple notion demands approaching methodology as an extreme sport. Learning to do and think urban studies differently calls for an embodied engagement with the cultures and materialities of the city. By curating an intense exposure to a wide-ranging number of methodological tools, honed in the street, the MPhil will foster solidarity within the cohort and nurture a scholarship sensibility that is open, critical, multi-dimensional, and above all else, creative. Dogma and certitude are sworn enemies of the City Research Studio.

Core modules engage and ground students in a mix of exciting theoretical debates central to contemporary Southern cities. Urban Theory explores the conceptual provocation that ground and shape urban studies across southern and northern bodies of theory. The Urban Everyday approaches urban studies through literature grounded in everyday practises central to the dynamism that shapes African and southern city contexts and their transformations. And, the Arts of Space thinks the city and its material forms through literatures on design from humanities and the spatial sciences, particularly architecture and planning. A selection of electives gives students an opportunity to engage with cities through particular disciplines and thematics in, for instance, geography, sociology, anthropology, architecture and planning.

In year two students research and write individual minor dissertations based on their own fieldwork, and supervised by expert faculty in either the Humanities, Engineering and the Built Environment, or Science Faculties at the University of Cape Town.


Entrance requirements

Applicants should have a relevant Honours degree or equivalent 4-year degree.

Students from institutions whose language of instruction is not English may be asked for proof of language proficiency.

Entry to all our postgraduate programmes is competitive. In special circumstances graduates who have shown by examination, or publication, or a record of appropriate training, that they have a reached a level equivalent to an Honours degree may be admitted, at the discretion of the Dean of Science. Such cases usually involve research, professional experience or publication that demonstrate competence in an appropriate field, usually considered to encompass approximately five years of experience in a relevant field subsequent to obtaining a first degree in that field.


Application process

Applications close 31 August each year..

Applicants will be notified via email of the outcome of their application.

For details on how to apply please click here.

For application related queries please contact the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science Postgraduate Administrator Mrs Tanya Basadien (


International Students

International students applying to do the MPhil programme should consider that VISA applications might take several months and could affect their ability to take up the course.

International students from the South African Development Community region (SADC) pay the South African fee, while others are required to pay an annual additional International Term Fee. Taught Masters Students may apply for a Science Faculty scholarship towards a much reduced international fee. This international fee is over and above the tuition fees. Details on the exact fee can be obtained from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

International students needing more information should contact the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO), Tel: +27 21 650 2822; Fax: +27 21 650 5667; E-mail: or see IAPO Website.


Scholarship and Funding

Due to the inter-faculty nature of the programme, costs may range between R49 000 and R55 000.

Several funding opportunities available for this course:

  • 5 fully-funded needs-based opportunities for South African students from previously disadvantaged background
  • 3 fully-funded opportunities are available for international students, with preference given to students from the Global South, including Africa

These scholarships seek to reward relevant urban research and academic excellence.



If you wish to join one of UCT’s student accommodations, you are strongly encouraged to apply early. For all information regarding student accommodation, please contact the accommodation office. Note that the course convener will not be able to assist you regarding fee, funding or housing issues.


Core Faculty

Edgar Pieterse is the director of the African Centre for Cities and holds the South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, both at the University of Cape Town.

Sophie Oldfield holds the University of Cape Town—University of Basel Professorship in Urban Studies, based at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.

António Tomás is a senior lecturer at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town and the convener of the Masters in Southern Urbanism.

  • To contact the course convener here.


University Of Cape Town Steering Committee

Prof Tomà Berlanda, Architecture, Planning and Geomatics

Dr Ruchi Chaturvedi, Sociology

Prof Francis Nyamnjoh, Anthropology

Dr Zwelethu Jolobe, Political Sciences

Dr Nomusa Makhubu, Fine Art

Prof Nancy Odendaal, Architecture, Planning and Geomatics,

Prof Sue Parnell, Environmental and Geographic Science

Dr Julian Raxworthy, Architecture, Planning and Geomatics

Prof Harro von Bottnitz, Chemical Engineering


International Advisory Board

Dr Akin Adesokan, Indiana University

Prof Ash Amin, Cambridge University

Dr Thomas Asher, Social Science Research Council

Dr Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlement

Prof Jo Beall, British Council & London School of Economics

Prof Teresa Caldeira, Berkeley University

Prof Teddy Cruz, UC San Diego

Dr Divine Fuh, Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research Africa

Prof Daniel Inkoom, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi

Dr Vyjayanthi Rao, New School for Social Research

Prof AbdouMaliq Simone, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity


The Masters in Southern Urbanism is hosted by the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Cape Town and made possible with by generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.