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Eco-Cities (MSc)

The MSc Eco-Cities is an innovative programme, which provides you with the skills to develop environmentally friendly urban projects, while reducing the impact of climate change.

The MSc Eco Cities course addresses how cities can be planned and built to promote low carbon lifestyles. You will explore how ecological development can mitigate climate change and promote more sustainable ways of living. 

The course addresses the serious and complex questions of how cities can be planned and managed in a more resource efficient way. These include:

  • What is a low carbon and ecological (sustainable) city?
  • How can city and regional planning effectively guide sustainable development?
  • Can cities be planned and built to promote low carbon lifestyles and foster ecological development that can mitigate climate change?
  • How can urban areas adapt to climate change?

You will gain a critical understanding of the forms of development that badge themselves as sustainable or low carbon and will develop the skills to take forward innovative environmentally friendly urban developments that are sensitive to the needs of sustainable spaces. 

Distinctive features

You will travel to a global city and work in depth on a ‘live’ planning project and/or governance issue. Previous destinations have included Xiamen and Jakarta.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration1 year

Admissions criteria

Applicants should normally hold a minimum of 2:2 Honours degree in Geography, Sociology, Politics, Economics, Public Administration, Planning, Landscape Architecure, Environmental Engineering.

English Language Requirements: For students whose first language is not English, a minimum standard in English language of either IELTS total score 6.5 (no sub-score may be below 5.5) or the equivalent.

Pre-course English Language tuition is available.

If your offer to study at Cardiff University is conditional on IELTS, we recommend that you take the ‘IELTS for UKVI’ test at an approved centre. This will give you greater flexibility regarding how to meet the English Language conditions of your offer. Please note that ‘IELTS for UKVI’ is the only test outside the UK that can be accepted for entry to Pre-sessional English Language programmes.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

The programme is offered full time (12 months) consisting of 180 credits. It is fully modularised.

You will take core options to the value of 60 credits, optional modules to the value of 60 credits, and then undertake a piece of independent research (Dissertation) also worth 60 credits.

The programme is divided into two parts:

  • Part one comprises a teaching programme of core and option modules over two semesters. Options are available in the School of Geography and Planning, the School of Engineering and the School of Architecture.
  • Part two comprises an individual dissertation on a topic selected in consultation with members of staff. Whilst there are few constraints on the choice of topic, it must address at least one of the core course themes of the Eco-Cities programme.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

The programme will be delivered through a mix of lectures, seminars and field study visits/empirical data collection.

The formative learning experience is particularly fruitful when you undertake the Live Project as staff will be alongside you in the field, and in your dissertations when you will have regular meetings with your supervisors on the progress of your research.

A particularly notable feature of the course is the Live Project in which you will have the opportunity to visit an ongoing eco-city development. This is a core module and provides an opportunity for you to undertake an overseas field study visit and work in-depth on a ‘live’ planning and/or governance issue in an eco-city.

You will work in groups and work closely with a partner organisation and will deploy skills in problem-definition; draw upon, and develop, knowledge of the planning, political and cultural context of the development; and appreciate the operational context within which a report will be delivered to the partner organisation.

How will I be supported?

You will be supported in a number of ways, including:

  • Assignment of a personal tutor who will have both a pastoral and academic role. You are expected to be in regular contact with your tutor and attendance is monitored.
  • Use of Learning Central where lecture materials and sometimes recordings will be made available enabling you to visit module material on a regular basis and at a time and place convenient to you.


Formative feedback is delivered in scheduled teaching sessions. This may take the form of commentaries on key text, peer-to-peer learning experiences, or discussions of how assessed work may be approached.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment takes place in modules on an ongoing basis and will take a variety of forms including essays, group reports, individual reports, presentations and multiple choice tests.

What skills will I practise and develop?

  • Analysis of policy problem
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Evaluation of alternatives
  • Recognition of issues of scale, geography and/or culture
  • Processing data
  • Data analysis techniques of software
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Group working
  • Application of low carbon development models.

It is estimated that there are about 170 eco-cities (towns) under development in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa, and the Pacific Area. In China alone, more than 90% of cities have expressed their interest in developing a new eco-city or to apply the principles of eco-city to their existing urban area.

The scale of current and future eco-city development and its global reach means that the programme will appeal and offer value to:

  • Those who are currently engaged in eco-developments and wish to develop their professional expertise and academic knowledge in a School of Geography and Planning.
  • Those who wish to pursue a career in eco-development and wish to learn about best practice and leading edge academic thinking.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

EU students entering in 2019/20 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

You will travel to a global city and work in depth on a ‘live’ planning project and/or governance issue. Previous destinations have included Xiamen and Jakarta.

2016 Student Work: An Interactive Web of Water, Space and Life

2016 Student Work: An Interactive Web of Water, Space and Life

12 January 2016

During the 2016 field study visit to Jakarta, students collaborated with staff from Cardiff University, University of Florida and the Universitas Indonesia, in a workshop focussing on how green infrastructure can help to enhance urban sustainability. An output of the workshop can be seen here as a sample of the book which was produced. The book explains the strategies that students have formulated to improve the living and environmental conditions of their study locations. There are ideas on how to improve water and waste management to reduce pollution, design recommendations that can link together lakes so that they improve their ecological and flood defence functions, and governance suggestions that will help communities to increase their capacity to shape their futures and governments to overcome administrative and policy divisions.