Minor in Urban Studies (BA)

Urban Studies is an undergraduate interdisciplinary Minor administered through the Department of Geography that is open to all Majors.

Your coursework  include selections from Art History, Sociology, History, Economics, First Nations and Indigenous Studies, Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, and the School of Community and Regional Planning. Urban Studies is a vibrant and growing area of study that allows students to explore how social, economic, and cultural processes shape cities – and how urbanization itself reshapes these sociocultural processes. Two core course requirements are URST 200 – Cities and URST 400 – Seminar in Urban Studies.   For more information on program requirements, click here.

Advising:  Book an appointment at https://stint.geog.ubc.ca/mrbs or email urban.studies@ubc.ca.


An Urban World

For the first time in human history, a majority of people in the world live in urban areas. Over the next quarter-century, the global urban population is projected to grow from three billion to five billion – advancing at an annual rate almost twenty times faster than rural areas. For the foreseeable future, metropolitan areas will account for an increasing share of global population growth and economic activity. The roster of “millionaire” cities – places with at least a million inhabitants – continues to expand, while the gap steadily widens between the urban poor and the truly wealthy millionaire-billionaire investors of today’s transnational networked economy.

These sorts of statistical statements pervade popular discussion of urban issues, and at times the barrage of rankings and indicators is overwhelming. Yet despite this proliferation of categories and quantities, until recently the very real problems and possibilities of cities and urban life were ignored and sidelined. Twenty years ago, the prominent social and cultural theorist David Harvey asked, “why is it that the urban so frequently disappears from our discussions of broader political-economic processes and trends? … The urban rarely appears as a salient category in our analyses. The crucial categories seem to be those of modernization, modernity, post-modernity, capitalist, and industrial society. So what has happened to the category ‘urban’?” [1]. Now, however, there is a growing recognition that we are living through a profound “Third Revolution.”  The first saw the emergence of the world’s first cities more than 5,000 years ago; the second involved the social and technological upheavals of industrialization; and now, as the urbanist John Rennie Short notes, “We are living in a time of planetary urbanization.  Big cities are at the heart of the global political economy, the setting for a refining of progressive politics and new ecological contexts of city constellations surrounded by rural hinterlands that provide natural resources, recreational sites, and waste dumps.”  [2]

Urban Studies is the interdisciplinary exploration of these settings, and the study of the paradoxical invisibility and centrality of cities in human affairs.  As urbanization reshapes the planet and humanity’s relations with nature, more and more of the specialized questions of specific disciplines are becoming distinctly urban questions and challenges. So we have a lot of fascinating and important things to explore!


[1] David Harvey (1997). “Contested Cities: Social Process and Spatial Form.” In Nick Jewson and Susanne MacGregor, editors, Transforming Cities. London and New York : Routledge.

[2] John Rennie Short (2017).  “Introduction to the Urban Moment.”  In John Rennie Short, editor, A Research Agenda for Cities.  Cheltenham, UK:  Edward Elgar, 1-9.

More information on the Urban Studies Minor and individual courses are listed here. Or email urban.studies@ubc.ca.