Urban Transformation


All urban areas in advanced economies Europe and beyond are facing huge spatial challenges. The drivers for urban transformation are manifold and include technological change and digitalization (smart cities), migration and demographic changes, climate change, increasing relevance of agglomeration economies as well as post- and re-industrialization. The spatial impacts of these transformations are complex and in part contradictory. Growth in metrocities (or post-metropolis) goes hand in hand with functional and physical densification in de-centred agglomerations. At the same time we observe urban shrinkage, the growth of low-density suburbs as well as the rising relevance of what Sieverts called the Zwischenstadt (in-between city or post-suburbia). The spatial implications of structural change and the organization of such transformation demand for deliberate strategies to plan, govern and revitalize urban areas, economically, socially and environmentally. In the scholarly literature, a wide range of new forms of interventions such as social innovation, governance, resilience, urban laboratories and urban strategy is discussed next to established approaches like learning regions or incremental planning.

Given the geographical location and the long experience in the field, the master programme ‘Spatial Planning’ with a specialisation in ‘Urban Transformation’ benefits from its location in one the most exciting post-industrial transition areas in Europe. In addition, the theme opens up multiple co-operation opportunities with other universities in the Ruhr (UAMR) and beyond. The Dortmund School of Planning has international reputation in this field. The spatial implications of structural change and the transformation of post-industrial regions have been a priority research field since the School has been established in 1968. Recently, new directions of research such as climate change and resilience, urban economics and governance innovation have been added.

The Ruhr became a much-appraised model for transition regions. It is an excellent laboratory to learn about the challenges and strategies of transforming and revitalizing a post-industrial region. The IBA Emscher Park strategy (1989-1999) is known worldwide as a particular innovative planning practice. The unique strategy of re-imaging and revitalizing the industrial landscape has raised considerable interest among planners and policy makers in Europe, America and Asia.


The one-year MSc programme aims to attract highly qualified students, wishing to learn more about innovative strategies to transform cities and regions at a location offering brilliant in situ conditions to understand the complexity of governance and planning. The programme builds upon a full 4 years bachelor programme in spatial planning, as established at the TU Dortmund. The philosophy of the programme is based on the understanding of planning as a multi-disciplinary discipline. The course and projects in the programme seek to bridge international theories of structural change and spatial transformation with the practice of governance in cities and regions.


The language of instruction is English. A prove of sufficient proficiency in English (for non-native students: TOEFL) is a precondition for all applicants admitted to the programme.

Target Group

Urban Transformation is a master programme with a restricted number of places, meant for students with a vivid interest in the field of planning, governance studies and urban economics. The expected enrolment to the programme will be a mix of students with a four years bachelor degree from the Dortmund School of Planning, who wish to gain a more international perspective, and international students, who wish to specialize in the field of planning, governance and economic transformation. Students who plan to continue with a PhD are welcome.

The M.Sc. programme is open to B.Sc. graduates from the Dortmund School of Planning, and B.Sc. graduates from other four year B.Sc. planning programmes in Germany and abroad (240 ECTS Credits). Students with a bachelor or master degree in other disciplines (such as, geography, urban and regional economics, political science, public management, urban design, landscape design, urban engineering, sociology or cultural studies) will have to prove their knowledge and competence in planning. In a first round, this will be done on the basis of documents shown to the office of application. Successful candidates will then be interviewed in person (in Dortmund or by teleconference) to make a final decision.


The focus of the master programme is on planning, governance and economics in cities and regions.  The courses taught focus on the theoretical and practical dimensions of urban transformation processes. Students will get a solid knowledge of established and new theories of urban transformation from the perspective of social sciences, economics, geography and planning. Case studies are taken from cities and regions all over the world. The master project, an essential element of the master programme, offers comprehensive research training in a group of students to prepare for writing the master thesis in the second semester.

The one year programme (60 ECTS Credits) will offer the following modules:

Module 1 ‘Theories of Urban Transformation’ (8 credits)

  • Ruhrlecture: discussing theories urban transformation (ROP, URI, EPC, lecture series with international guests) (2 CP, lecture with essay)
  • Seminar: Ruhrlecture – the seminar, Structural change and spatial development, Advanced Urban Economics (ROP, ILS, URI, EPC) (4 CP, seminar, graded)

Module 2 ‘Master Project’ (12 credits)

Master Project (participating chairs)

Module 3 ‘Advanced Studies in Spatial Transformation’ (20 credits)

{divided in three tracks planning, governance, urban economics, 4 seminar / year}

  1. European experiences in transformation processes: Cases and Policies (EPC)
  2. Post-industrial Regions as laboratories of structural change (EPC) or Economics Instruments for Regional Development Planning (URI)
  3. Strategic urban development in shrinking cities and regions (ROP)
  4. Legacy Cities in the Northern Hemisphere (ROP)
  5. Temporary Land use (EPC)
  6. Topics in Urban Economics (URI)
  7. Smart Cities (EPC)

Module 4 ‘Master Thesis’ (20 credits)

Master Thesis (20) (participating chairs)

The modules will be offered by established chairs in the School, including guest lecturers from the region and abroad. Selected modules can also be offered in co-operation with the Department of Geography of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

Feel to contact our academic counselling staff or the departents of European Planning Cultures, Spatial Planning and Planning Theory and Urban and Regional Economics.

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