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The Economics of Urbanisation

Over half the world's population now live in cities and, within a few decades, the population of urban areas will exceed the entire global population today. Ongoing urbanisation presents opportunities and challenges that are of interest to policy makers and researchers.

Course description

In this course, you will learn about the economic forces that underpin urbanisation and shape cities. Along the way, you will be equipped with knowledge and skills that help answer questions such as: Why are firms and people moving to cities? How do we measure the performance of cities? What factors explain why some cities thrive, while others struggle? What can policy makers do to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of cities? To gain insight into these questions, students will participate in lectures, self-directed work, and field visits.

Amsterdam provides a unique base to learn about cities. From humble beginnings as a bridge over the river Amstel, Amsterdam rose to prominence during the 17th century as a centre of international trade. Today, Amsterdam forms part of a large, prosperous, and inter-connected metropolitan region that sits at the heart of Europe. The course is delivered by the Department of Spatial Economics at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, whose 60 staff members are actively engaged in multi-disciplinary academic research and policy development. Publications by the Department’s staff are internationally recognised and rank in the top 5% of institutions worldwide in relevant economic disciplines. Many staff also have prominent advisory roles for government and media institutions, linking research to practice.

Continue reading below for more information. 

About this course

Course level

  • Master / Advanced / Beginner


  • 2 ECTS

Contact hours

  • 25


  • English

Tuition fee

  • €500 - €950

Additional Course Information

  • Learning Objectives

    By the end of this course, students will: 

    • Have a solid understanding of the economic mechanisms that drive urbanisation, determine why some cities are more successful than others.
    • Gain insight into the policy challenges that metropolitan areas face and the pros and cons of the instruments that can be used to tackle these challenges.
    • Develop experience in conducting and presenting applied research, including evaluation methodologies used in benefit-cost analysis.
  • Course syllabus

    Here you will be able to download the preliminary course syllabus in March 2024.  

    *Please note that it will be a preliminary syllabus and that it might be subject to some change before the course starts.  

  • About the course organiser

    Stuart Donovan holds master's degrees in engineering and economics and is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of Spatial Economics, where he is supervised by Henri L. F. de Groot. In his PhD, Stuart is researching agglomeration economies; regional economic development; and modelling how transport affects location choice. Stuart has 15-years’ experience working as a consultant in Australia and New Zealand, where he specialises in economic analysis, multi-modal transport planning, and strategic policy. Stuart’s academic research is strongly shaped by his professional experience.

Team VU Amsterdam Summer School

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  • Bianca
  • Programme Coordinator
  • Celia
  • Summer and Winter School Officer
Celia VU Amsterdam Summer & Winter School
  • Helena
  • Summer and Winter School Officer
Helena VU Amsterdam Summer and Winter School