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Governance of Cities and Citizens


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA Urban Studies programme.


How are contemporary cities governed? How do they address increasingly ‘wicked problems’? How to manage, for instance, climate change in complex urban environments? And what role do citizens play? The course begins addressing these questions by first explaining the scope, main themes and challenges of contemporary urban governance and why–as some scholars argue–the city has become increasingly complex and decentered, not only spatially and structurally, but also conceptually. In order to provide focus, the course elucidates key notions of urban governance by concentrating on climate change challanges.

The course first illustrates the particular importance of cities and urban governance in addressing climate change. Cities worldwide have grown rapidly, and are key contributors of climate change. Cities are also confronted by the impact of climate change and a range of environmental problems (e.g. urban smog, heat islands, waste pollution), while being considered a proper scale for intervention. As such, cities have become key players with global challenges and responsibities. Here, the course explains the rise of ‘carbon-neutral’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘resilient’ city discourses, and urban policy plans that pursue broader sustainable transitions. Second, the course highlights how governing urban sustainability is not only the realm of urban government and policy actors. A wide range of stakeholders play a significant role in urban climate initiatives. Local authorities throughout the world increasingly manage public affairs – including climate change – in cooperation with other public and private actors (e.g. national and international governments, businesses, citizens organised in grassroot organisations and cooperatives). The course focusses on different types of urban governance, in which the role the state, citizens and businesses play different roles. Third, the course discusses the normative aspects of urban climate governance. Urban governance is connected to power and the struggle for hegemony. In the context of climate governance, different stakeholder (e.g. technocrats, multinationals, climate activists) strategically frame the agenda and the type of action cities need. This raises important questions about who ‘owns’ the city, and about struggles for sustainable and just cities.

The course elaborates these topics with reference to the latest conceptual developments not only in urban studies but also in environmental governance and politics, and social scientific discourse about urban climate governance. A set of guest lectures from specialized scholars complements the focus of this course by addressing a variety of other aspects of urban governance.

Course objectives

The student is able to:

  • 1) Identify key aspects and challenges of contemporary urban governance, especially regarding climate change.

  • 2) Characterise different modes of urban climate governance and the roles of state and non-state actors;

  • 3) Reflect on the normative aspects underlying urban climate governance;

  • 4) Reproduce the most important theoretical contributions to the study of urban governance (from a multidisciplinary perspective).


The timetable is available on the Urban Studies website

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Work group (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every work group session of the course. If a student is unable to attend a workgroup, they should inform the lecturer in advance, providing a valid reason for absence. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If they are absent from a workgroup without a valid reason, they can be excluded from the final exam in the course.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC equals 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 26

  • Attending work groups: 8

  • Assessment hours (exams): 2

  • Study of compulsory literature: 54

  • Completing assignment(s), preparing for classes and exams: 50

Assessment method


  • Midterm exam
    Written examination with open questions and an essay question

  • Paper

  • Oral presentation

  • Reports based on ‘serious game’


Partial grade Weighing
Midterm Exam 40
Paper 30
Work group grade: Presentation and report based on ‘serious game’ 30

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of work group grade, midterm exam grade and the final paper grade.

  • The midterm exam grade and the final paper grade need to be 5.50 or higher.

  • This means that failing exam or paper grades cannot be compensated with a high work group grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the midterm exam grade and/or the final paper is lower than 5.50, there is a possibility of retaking the midterm exam and/or the final paper. The deadline for resubmission of your final paper is to be consulted with the lecturer. No resit for the work group grade is possible.

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • all course communication (e.g. announcements, syllabus, etc.)

  • turning in papers

Reading list

  • Mandatory literature will be listed on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Shivant Jhagroe Dr. Erin Sullivan (work groups)