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MA Cities

Start date
January 2021
Course length
Two years part-time (90 weeks)
Up to five years flexible learning mode

Please note that MA Cities is ‘subject to validation’. ‘Validation’ is the process by which the university develops new courses. It is developmental in nature and makes sure students get a high quality academic experience. During validation there may be some changes to the course content displayed on this page. Please contact us if you have any questions about this course.

MA Cities explores alternative, creative approaches to city-making.

Through a critical and experimental approach, you will challenge conventions of urban development and regeneration, exploring new forms of knowledge exchange through culturally engaged participatory processes. This course is part of the Spatial Practices programme.

Why choose this course at Central Saint Martins

  • Critical spatial practices: The course emphasises critical engagement with the realities of spatial production in the context of environmental, political and societal crisis. It embraces the disruptive and experimental culture of Central Saint Martins while ensuring rigorous academic content creates innovative, relevant and applicable results.
  • Engaging with industry: Elements of the course are delivered by industry practitioners as part of your professional development. You will have direct involvement in urban sites and situations as part of your study.
  • Interdisciplinary, wide-ranging appeal: This course will appeal to architects who are keen to up-skill and approach the complexities of the city creatively; planners who seek a more multi-disciplinary approach; artists and other creative practitioners who want to critically advance their practice; and professionals from urban design, urban policy and research backgrounds who want to broaden their discourse an.d international network.
  • Course structure: MA Cities is delivered through a combination of intensive learning sprints and self-directed study. Each sprint will deliver core knowledge and research into urban policy and governance; cultural infrastructure and creative citizenship; and the urban economy.

Course overview

MA Cities explores creative approaches to city-making. As an art and design college, Central Saint Martins is a place of intense cultural production, generating critical practice in an environment beset by increasing inequality, gentrification and climate crisis. Engaging in an enquiry-led approach, MA Cities will challenge the conventions of urban development, regeneration, and place-making. The course will explore the value and agency of alternative approaches in confronting the pressing social, cultural, environmental and ethical concerns of contemporary urbanism. In doing so, it will ask you to navigate complex and dynamic urban scenarios where you may be alternately complicit and resistant to these forces.

MA Cites understands cities, towns and other dense urban settlements as collaborative and contested spaces – created through interactions between various participants and stakeholders. The course engages in cross-collaboration and knowledge exchange with a wide range of art and design practices, external partners and organisations, using London as a test bed. You will be immersed in professional contexts of public sector and urban practice through direct engagement with local governments, regeneration agencies, creative and spatial practitioners. The course also works in collaboration with world-wide partners, to ensure that your studies are informed by leading international perspectives and expertise in creative city-making.

On this course, you will engage with theoretical and practice-orientated approaches, political and ethical positions and a range of scales and methods of city-making. You will critically reflect upon your own forms of urban practice, and develop new modes of research into critical practices, urban policy, governance and the urban economy –through creative collaboration and experimentation. The course will encourage you to develop an individual position, agenda and methodology, and inform your own future urban practice.

Course units

MA Cities follows a broad thematic arc which considers situations, agencies, interventions and practices. Each course unit is approximately nine weeks long and begins with two to three weeks of self-directed study, supported by collaborative online activities. During this time, you will prepare for an intensive teaching and learning sprint which usually takes place over a weekend. The sprint is followed by six to seven weeks of self-directed project work, culminating in a submission. Online tutorial support is provided throughout the duration of each unit, as well as facilitated collaborative peer-to-peer learning via a learning technologist.

Unit 1: Voices from the City

Unit 1 considers cities, towns and other dense urban settlements as places where multiple transactions and situations are constantly performed by a variety of participants. This unit addresses the challenges facing cities through transcultural and cross-cultural social experiences and encounters. This is delivered through weekly reports from different constituencies and sectors of urban practice, including citizens, practitioners, policymakers and governors. The unit establishes a situated position for learning and reflecting. It challenges students to confront their own specific cultural identities in relation to others and to reflect upon the situated nature of civic practices.

Unit 2: Community and Collaboration

Unit 2 provides an opportunity for engagement with different theories and approaches to urban space and city-making. This allows students to analyse, understand and re-imagine existing individual and organisational practices. The unit establishes a theoretical background and thematic grounding in histories of social engagement, collaboration and participatory practice, examining theories and practices around the production of social space. The unit will consider and define the role of creative practices in the public realm. Students will examine the increasing privatisation of public space, analysing and critiquing notions of place-making, creative cities and the rise of arts-led regeneration and its associated cultural infrastructures.

Unit 3: Critical Creative Practices

Unit 3 explores the context of alternative urban and civic practices through the observation of, and participation in, a live-project. This is undertaken in collaboration with external agencies, for example local government, regeneration authorities, arts groups and third-sector organisations. In this unit, students will develop methods of critical analysis and interpretation, and will speculate on the themes, questions and methods of sustained urban and civic practice. Unit 3 will be brokered with specific arts-led practices and organisations appropriate to the cohort.

Unit 4: Commissioning and Governance

Unit 4 focuses on organisational structures, working relationships and forms of commissioning by local authorities, government and wider agencies, including their associated policy contexts. The unit is delivered as a series of case studies with reports and seminars from a range of practitioners, policymakers, arts professionals and local authority workers. They will cover a range of subjects including the inner workings of local government, the complexities of institutional relationships and provide first-hand accounts of initiating and implementing projects. This unit includes lectures and case-study presentations on forms and theories of urban governance, urban policy, funding, procurement, regulation, legislation and lobbying.

Unit 5: Infrastructures and Transactions

Unit 5 is concerned with the economy of civic and urban practices and explores transactions between the social and the economic, the informal economy and the extra-state, money and deals. The unit considers the impact of wider political and economic forces such as austerity, precarity, de-growth and the built environment. It reflects on the burgeoning service-orientated goals for creative urban practice, including relationships to health and well-being and environmental and societal challenges. The unit addresses forms of value and impact, searching for ways of evaluating cultural production and spatial change beyond the monetary and financial.

Unit 6: Practice Manual (Pre-Thesis)

This unit allows time and focus to develop a thesis question. It also supports you in scoping a method for conducting your thesis. The thesis can be formulated as either a text and image document-based propositions, or a creative design intervention. If appropriate, it can be formulated in association with a third party through an embedded practice placement undertaken during Unit 6. Your thesis should involve collaboration with key partners, including engagement with communities, organisations and stakeholders.

Unit 7: Thesis

The course culminates in Unit 7, the final Master’s-specific 60-credit unit. You will reflect critically on the critical and practical skills encountered in the course through a self-directed written or creative thesis, or personal practice-based project. Unit 7 is intended to rehearse creative attributes that enable you to become a self-sufficient and critical practitioner, with clear aspirations for your future role and the confidence and independence to pursue your goals. The thesis unit will support you to conduct and deliver an enquiry-led proposition which frames a new civic or urban practice, rehearsing skills of proactivity, enterprise and agility.

Mode of Study

MA Cities is offered in both part-time and flexible learning modes.

Part-time mode runs for 90 weeks over two academic years. You will be expected to commit 20 hours per week to study, which includes teaching time and independent study.

Flexible learning mode is a unit by unit approach that allows you up to five years to complete. This mode of learning supports those of you who are already established in your careers, and who may be travelling from afar to join the course.  Unit 1 is compulsory and must be undertaken initially. Units 2-4 can then be taken in any order thereafter. Units 5 and 6 need to be undertaken in consecutive order.

Credit and award requirements

The course is credit-rated at 180 credits.  

On successfully completing the course, you will gain a Master of Arts (MA degree).

Under the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, an MA is Level 7. All units must be passed in order to achieve the MA but the classification of the award is derived from the mark for the final unit only.

If you are unable to continue on the course, a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) will normally be offered following the successful completion of 60 credits, or a Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) following the successful completion of 120 credits.

Learning and teaching methods

  • Unit briefings and introductions
  • Group on-line ‘orientation’ exercises
  • Reading tasks
  • Face-to-face workshops, introducing different ways of locating, interrogating, and interpreting a number of models and case studies
  • Team work
  • Student presentations to tutors and peers
  • Peer and external feedback
  • Tutorial facilitation/evaluation related to team/individual and cohort.

Assessment methods

  • Online assessment
  • Personal and group tutorials
  • Thesis.


How to apply

Opportunities for all

We are committed to making university education an achievable option for a wider range of people and to supporting all of our students in achieving their potential both during and after their courses.

We welcome applications from people with disabilities. If you have a disability (e.g. mobility difficulties, sensory impairments, medical or mental health conditions or Asperger’s syndrome) we strongly encourage you to contact us on or +44 (0)20 7514 6156 so that we can plan the right support for you. All enquiries are treated confidentially. To find out more, visit our Disability & Dyslexia webpages.

Entry requirements

The standard entry requirements for this course are as follows:

An upper second-class honours degree or an equivalent EU/ international qualification.

The course aims to recruit post-experience candidates who have graduate-level qualifications and a minimum of one year work experience. The course will not normally recruit from end-on students (i.e. those progressing directly from undergraduate degrees).

Applicants are likely to come from disciplines such as art and design, architecture, urban studies, the humanities, social sciences, politics or economics, or from other areas of creative practice such as performance.

English language requirements

Applicants must have an English language proficiency of IELTS 7 and a minimum score of 6.5 in all papers (please check our main English language requirements webpage).

Selection criteria

Applicants should:

  • Demonstrate a clear personal agenda, related to the aims of the course (Personal Statement/Interview)
  • Demonstrate that your personal and professional aspirations are compatible with the aims and objectives of MA Cities (Personal Statement/Interview)
  • Have excellent communication skills and appropriate ability in visual, as well as written and verbal presentation (Project Portfolio /Personal Statement/CV/Interview)
  • Have the ability to think in abstract, conceptual and strategic terms (CV/Personal Statement /Interview)
  • Demonstrate a collaborative mindset and an ability to negotiate roles within multidisciplinary and cross-cultural teams (Project Portfolio/CV)
  • Have a good level of computer literacy and access to computing equipment as follows, including the use of web browser to search the web; use of Skype in a video call; ability to post a reply in a discussion forum; experience in text software such as Microsoft Word; proficiency in editing and publishing software such as Adobe Indesign; proficiency in visual and presentation software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; ability to save, adapt and edit an image from an external device (e.g. smartphone, scanner, digital camera) into a computer. (Project Portfolio/CV).

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