Research areas

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)

IHS' PhD research programme fuses urban management with governance; a solid, relevant and academically unique combination. The PhD programme is divided into six fields of research. Researchers working within these fields actively collaborate with each other in order to create a truly multidisciplinary research environment.


Managing and financing urban infrastructure (MFUI)

As cities expand and incomes increase, finding innovative solutions for sustainable mobility becomes increasingly important. This specialisation seeks to provide hands-on knowledge and expertise on how local governments can most efficiently manage, finance and operate municipal infrastructure to deliver desired levels of service.

This specialisation is connected to IHS' Green City work field in which providing resilient, energy efficient and smart infrastructure play a prominent role in helping cities to become more sustainable and green. The primary focus is on developing countries and countries in transition.

Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Managing urban infrastructure and building projects
  • Urban project finance
  • Transport and mobility
  • Sustainable and green energy
  • Sustainable drink water sanitation
  • Drainage management

Urban housing, equity and social Justice (UHES)

Housing should be understood as ‘more than houses’. Researchers active within this strand of research strive to link housing issues with the livelihoods strategies of the urban poor. In addition, livelihood assets are analysed in view of their vulnerability and institutional context.

This translates into the importance of looking at the housing problem from a holistic standpoint. Physical, political, social, economic and environmental issues interrelate with each other. The objective is to produce urban environments that should ultimately reduce poverty, and increase quality of life. Both housing and social policies, strategies and instruments need to be designed with a clear understanding of these aspects if they are ever to efficiently address the problem of urbanisation of poverty.

Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • What type of initiatives do the urban poor (low-income families, slum dwellers) take, individually or collectively, to improve the liveability of their settlement?
  • How are the urban poor involved in the design and implementation of neighbourhood development programmes?
  • What is the impact of neighbourhood development programmes on the local initiatives and livelihoods of the urban poor?

    Urban Environment, sustainability and climate Change (UESC)

    Cities all over the world experience severe environmental and climate change related problems. This research theme addresses new approaches for urban environment and climate change management.

    UECC is one of IHS' largest research teams that works towards understanding the impact and use of urban environmental policies and instruments including urban climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

    Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

    • Green and sustainable cities
    • Solid waste management
    • The relationship between different urban designs and environmental impacts
    • Urban governance arrangements for climate change adaptation
    • Multi-level and multi-actor governance
    • Climate change and environmental decision making and finance

      Urban strategies and planning (USP)

      Around the world, urban professionals increasingly face challenges such as accelerated urbanisation, an increase in informal housing, and climate change. In order to deal with these challenges urban planning has moved away from comprehensive master plans to more flexible strategic plans. Contemporary strategic planning integrates more social and economic considerations into the physical and spatial dimensions of planning.

      Researcher within this specialisation seeks to offer creative and innovative solutions to better understand the needs of different social and economic interests within urban planning management. Different from the classical study of urban planning, this strand focusses on the combination of urban planning policies, city development strategies and public-private partnerships.

      Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

      • How are cities planned?
      • What visions does urban planning follow and whose vision is it?
      • What are the underlying features of urban development and what is the role of self-organisation?
      • How do micro-interventions (such as placemaking and streetscaping) connect with planning and implementation on the municipal and national levels?

        Urban land governance (ULG)

        The concentration of economic activities in cities is inevitably translated into substantial increases in the value of their land. The distribution of activities in the city is largely influenced by how and where local government regulates land use and tenure, and build collective infrastructure and facilities.

        This line of research aims to analyse how land value is mobilised across the world. The objective is to make a critical comparison and learn about the potentials and the limitations that determine their performance. Research performed within this specialisation is often conducted in collaboration with IHS' research partner the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (USA).

        Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

        • Urban land markets
        • Land value capture
        • Urban land tenure systems
        • Urban land and property rights

          Urban competitiveness and resilience (UCR)

          Cities cannot be understood as autonomous entities. There are affected by complex processes on the local, regional and global scale. Given the increasing dependency of cities on global economic networks, it is crucial to find the balance between social wellbeing, local economic development and global strategies that can ensure resilience to socioeconomic shocks and fluctuations.

          This research theme investigates how globalisation processes, local economic development, and urban conditions can enable cities to successfully compete or collaborate with other cities on various scales. This is done by analysing and comparing urban networks, economic geography, foreign direct investments and local economic development as well as city marketing and branding.

          Potential research topics include, but are not limited to:

            • What factors determines a city’s global competitiveness?
            • What urban characteristics are attract foreign direct investments?
            • How to develop more resilient cities with healthy relationships between local, regional and global interests?
            • Which economic sectors should be promoted in order to boost sustainable local economic development and social wellbeing?
            • How does global economic unevenness affect economic inequality in African countries and cities?