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Changing cities: urban transitions and decision making

How are cities responding to environmental change, economic instability, limited resources and other challenges? Can we make the towns, cities or neighbourhoods we live in fairer, safer and more fulfilling? This module looks at place-making decisions faced by planners, urban managers, activists and ordinary people. You will be introduced to forms of spatial and political thinking in relation to topical issues. Changing cities will guide you in the development of your own specialist area of decision making. You will develop independent research skills and put them into practice in relation to an urban or place-making issue of your own choosing.

Vocational relevance

Changing cities responds to a growing range of practical demands to shape the places where we live or work, and caters to the growth of vocations concerned with many different aspects of place-making. Whether it is as planners or urban managers, householders or citizens, advocates or activists, or in the context of community or private enterprise, there are numerous opportunities for intervening positively in place-making processes.

Employers are increasingly placing great value on trained graduates who are able to demonstrate initiative and work independently. You will develop and refine transferable research and study skills, and advance your capacity to identify, research and present complex issues.

The module keeps in mind that, sooner or later, local decision-makers are likely to be confronted with new and unanticipated issues – whether environmental, economic or cultural. The skills and the ways of looking at the world that are the crux of Changing cities are intended to help you engage critically and creatively with a future that will not only deliver familiar challenges but will undoubtedly come with some surprises.


This is a compulsory module in the Joint Distance Learning MA in Town and Country Planning. See the Professional Recognition section below for details.

D837 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards F13, which is no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module sets out from the idea that every city, town or neighbourhood – wherever it is in the world – must respond in some way to the demands that weigh upon it. Whether these challenges are urgent and momentous or more moderate and mundane, it is easier to grapple with them if we have a clear sense of what makes an ‘issue’ or ‘concern’.

You will learn how theories about the make up of places and their spatial relations can help us make sense of urban processes. You will also learn how complex ‘place-making’ problems can be broken down and analysed in stages. By way of an engagement with a range of real world examples, Changing cities will take you from the causes of problems, through the 'politics' of shaping and expressing concerns, and on to processes of decision making and practical action. Along the way, you will learn from comparing the experiences of different kinds of cities or towns, both near and far.

Through a range of readings and activities, you will develop your own independent research capacity in relation to places and issues that interest you. Having been introduced to some useful ways of thinking 'spatially' and 'politically' about urban processes, you will be guided in the choice of a specialist topic which will enable you to explore a particular place-making issue in depth.

You will be shown how to source the materials you need in order to track and make sense of this issue. As you gain experience in bringing together theoretical and practical resources, you will develop your abilities to undertake a research project of your own.

Teaching is delivered online through a combination of written texts and audio visual materials, developed through interactive activities and tutor-supported student group forums.

You will be expected to use some non-OU materials in the course of developing your specialist topic. You should contact the OU if you have concerns about your ability to access external materials.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study materials and direct you towards external sources of information that will develop your skills as an independent researcher. Your tutor will mark and comment on your written work and is available to you for individual advice and guidance. You will also have access to the skills and expert knowledge of other tutors on the module via the online forums and module-directed activities.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must also be submitted online.

Course work includes

1 Tutor-marked assignment (TMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in November 2015, when it will be available for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Entry requirements

This module can be taken on its own or as part of a qualification.

The minimum entry requirement is a recognised UK honours degree or its equivalent.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
07 Nov 2015 Apr 2016 £1388.00

Registration closes 23/10/15 (places subject to availability)

November 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

Ways to pay

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

Study Guide and online materials including structured learning activities and podcasts. Comprehensive guidance and support via the OU’s online support; other teaching and learning resources, as required.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

The study materials will be online and a printable version is available.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.