MA in Cities & Society

This programme brings together social analysis, design, activism, and inventive methods to engage various dimensions of urban work – from planning, policy making, research, cultural intervention, to the management of social programmes and institutions.

About the department

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time.
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

See our tuition fees.
Further information

This course covers the following disciplines: geography, anthropology, architecture, cultural studies, fine arts, media and communications

Contact the department
Contact Alex Rhys-Taylor
Visit us
Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

Increasingly, no matter how we live, we know this 'world' primarily through the experience of living within and between cities. These cities continuously provide new challenges to understanding the constraints and potentials of both human and non-human life.

But how do we understand this experience? What do we do with it in terms of making new forms of social life, new ways of living with others? Particularly, how do we draw upon the experience of urban residents from across the world to rethink the conditions for effective and just urban lives?

The MA Cities and Society is a research and training programme designed to support strategic interventions in urban governance, design, institution-building and change, as well as social-spatial development. The programme focuses in particular on:

The organisation of contemporary urban economies, including the production of built and virtual environments, physical and social infrastructure

  • The ways in which different forms of economic accumulation and economic practices impact upon cities, and how any city reflects a particular set of constraints and possibilities
  • The proliferation of technical systems, media, and practices of interpretation and organisation that change our notions about the ‘proper’ use of things and bodies
  • The intersections of finance, governance, ecology, and culture in producing multiple forms for assessing urban futures; particularly calculations of risk, sustainability, productivity and creativity

What you study

The programme consists of three core modules:


One hour lectures address the core themes of each module, followed by one hour seminars in small groups (under 20). You'll be encouraged to attend dissertation classes that train you in the basic principles of dissertation preparation, research and writing. You are also assigned a dissertation supervisor who will be available when you are writing the dissertation (approximately one hour contact time per month).


Essays and dissertation.

MA granted on the completion of 180 CATS (all coursework and dissertation); Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education granted on the completion of 120 CATS (all coursework without dissertation); Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education granted on the completion of 60 CATS (the completion of two core modules).

Applying and entrance requirements

You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments.
  • The email address details of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference.
  • A personal statement. This can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online.
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for funding you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for UK/EU students and international students. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Entrance requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

We also accept a wide range of international equivalent qualifications, which can be found on our country-specific pages. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

English language

If your first language is not English, you normally need a minimum score of 6.5 in IELTS (including 6.5 in the written element) or equivalent. 

Please check our English language requirements for more information.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form


+44 (0)20 7919 7766

International (non-EU)

+44 (0)20 7919 7702

Core modules

The programme consists of three core modules

SO71093B Remaking London 30 CATS

In nearly every century over the last millennium, London has been a crucial node within the networks of commerce and cultural exchange that spanned the world. In the 21st century , London remains a site of intense activity, sat atop innumerable junctions of capital, migration, culture and commodities. As such London presents the ideal focal point for developing an understanding of the pressing questions facing cities today and into the future. However, while it is important to understand the long history of London’s place within global networks of power and exchange, it is also impossible to ignore the extent to which, in recent years, forces that shape the contemporary city are visibly shifting. That is, the roads that meet at the city’s junction are arriving from new destinations, carrying new opportunities and risks for the city and precipitating new developments.  Accordingly, this course seeks to understand how London is being re-made amidst the re-wiring of global circuitry.

Focusing on specific examples – drawn from the Centre for Urban and Community Research’s activity across London – the module illuminates the impact of new technologies, markets, mutations in governing ideologies, novel patterns of mobility and new technologies of surveillance on the city and its inhabitants. Beyond understanding how these developments impact on London the module aims to develop an understanding of London through its relatedness to other urban locations, situating London’s connectedness to elsewhere as integral to the ways in which the city is being re-made.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay or multimedia presentation (visual, audio, audio visual or digital interactive) supplemented by 2,000 word essay.

Module Convener: Alex Rhys-Taylor

SO71042B Navigating Urban Life 30 CATS

This module addresses significant issues in the contemporary organisation of urban landscapes, urban life and connections between cities as well as the interface between human and architectural fabric. Drawing on specific empirical examples in based in China, Hong Kong, the US, London and parts of mainland Europe this module examines key debates in urban sociology and research. There is a strong focus on visual apprehension of cities and ways of accessing and researching cities through photography.   The following sessions have been offered in previous years: 

  • A tour of 'urban theory' from the Chicago School to the present day. This sets up the conceptual basis for the session following which, although empirically focused on specific cities, illuminate different conceptual frameworks for understanding urbanism.
  • Whose City? This examines debates concerned with the social production of space and rights to the city. An examination of ghetto urbanism in the US through Wacquant, Bourdieu, Bourgeois and the research through which this kind of urban knowledge is generated.
  • Pastness and Urban Landscape. This examines discrepant and linear notions of time/interpretations of pastness, collective memory, and how pasts are inscribed within urban landscapes. We will draw mainly on visually-led investigation of Hong Kong and London to explore these themes.
  • Post-Colonial Cities. This session examines the intersections between globalisation and colonialism in Hong Kong and in the lives of ‘skilled’ migrants from the global North. It makes extensive use of photographic narratives of Hong Kong as an iconic city landscape and the use of environmental portraiture to capture migrants’ relationships to the city.
  • Globalisation, Migration and Urban Life. Drawing on visual empirical research on mosques and African churches in London this session examines the impact of recent and current migration on commerce, religion and city landscape. It sets this in broader debates about globalisation and cities developed from the previous session.
  • Material Cultures and Multiple Globalisations. This session draws on some of the more ordinary trajectories of commodities and collaborations composing the global world through small trade between China/Hong Kong and Africa, and Europe and Africa. 
  • Mega-Cities and Non-City Zones. This session is set in China. It examines architecture, the generic city, land speculation and the dynamics between mega-cities and economic and technical development zones through some of the lives that are lived in them.
  • Urban Regeneration. This session examines the politics, debates, conceptualisation and social divisions generated and sustained in urban renewal projects. Who benefits from these projects? How do they reconstruct cities? We will draw specifically on Olympic-related redevelopments in Athens, London, and Beijing.
  • Architectural and Planning Politics. This session examines ways in which political and military decisions are embedded in architecture and planning. It draws on Weizman’s Hollow Land and asks questions about whether this involves a radical re-conceptualisation of space.
  • Mobilities. This session is concerned with movement and routes as well as the infrastructure and technologies of mobility such as bridges, roads, airports, stations, tunnels, trains, motor transport, and shipping. It asks critical questions about whether these approaches to space generate information about social morphology or social life more generally.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay

Convener: Caroline Knowles 

SO73002B Urban Field Encounters 30 CATS

This module focuses on how analyses of urban life constitute an arena for new forms of research. As such, the module primarily deals with methods for engaging and analyzing life worlds where narrowing and expansion, ambiguity and precision, dissipation and concrescence, embodiment and digitalisation, movement and stasis are all intensified. So instead of the research process being enacted on one scale versus another, one defined group versus another, one sector versus another, or one process versus another, it increasingly must look at the spaces and times in-between, and how different zones are modulated in their relationships with each other. Our main emphasis therefore is on how to broaden the possibilities of research to study the contemporary city.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay

Module convenor: Alex Rhys-Taylor

SO71121A Dissertation 60 CATS

In the summer term you complete a major practical project consisting of any media and addressing a specific sociological problem. You will meet for individual supervision with a member of the Sociology staff. 
The dissertation is a substantive piece of research in which you develop a visual, inventive or experimental approach to a topic of your choice.

Option modules

Students select one option module drawn from the Department's extensive list of option modules offered at MA level.

SO71088A Gender Affect and the Body 30 CATS

This module examines the place of affect and the body in feminist theory and feminist practice. It will first examine and engage the place of the body within the field of arts, culture and representation; feminist theatre practice; gender, passing and ethnicity, in feminist writing; and in feminist film theory. Secondly it examines and critically engages the field of emotion, the politics of ‘happiness’, contemporary feminist scholarship on affect, and also the politics of science, technology and transformation in women’s/human bodies. Third it will consider the issues which arise from old and new flows of migration and other kinds of bodily movement; and finally examine the role and value of narrative in feminist writing. This module therefore offers instruction in cutting edge issues in contemporary feminist cultural theory.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay

Module convenor: Sara Ahmed/ Yasmin Gunaratnam

SO71096A Mapping Capitalism 30 CATS

Inspired by Fredric Jameson’s notion of ‘cognitive mapping’, this module explores contemporary efforts to provide social and political ‘cartographies’ of capitalist society, with particular attention to the intersection between materialist theories of social space and aesthetic forms (both literary and visual). The module will be divided into two parts. In the first, we will explore Jameson's landmark volume Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, immersing ourselves in its diagnosis of cultural practice in contemporary capitalism. We will undertake a critical dialogue with its dialectical method, as it applies to varied domains, from video art to architecture, postmodern theory to the new forms of subjectivity. We will pay particular attention to the kind of tools that Jameson's work can provide for thinking through the aesthetic and representational issues raised by the logic of contemporary culture, and ask whether the 'postmodern' is still with us.

The second part of the module will investigate different approaches to ‘mapping capitalism’, with particular attention to the visual arts. We will consider the pioneering political modernisms of Brecht, Eisenstein and Godard; the analysis of commodity-chains and containerization, as explored in the photographic work of Allan Sekula; the challenges of representing the centrality of gender and real estate to new forms of capitalist domination; the thematisation of landscape as a site of power relations and social transformations; the challenge to social thought and the visual arts of developments in military technologies of surveillance and targeting, with a particular emphasis on secrecy and drones. Throughout, we will try to think of how a 'cartographic turn' in contemporary theory, art and political activism challenges our presuppositions about the relationship between social inquiry, spatial analysis and political aesthetics.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay

Module convenor: Alberto Toscano

SO73006B Consumer Citizenship and Visual Media 30 CATS

This module examines visual advertising media and the proliferation of neo-liberal philosophies of consumer citizenship. Divided into five main sections.

Part One, examines reflexive modernity and the linking of postmodern visual media with citizenship as part of the development of political consumerism.

Part Two, is informed by Michel Foucault's 1978-1979 lectures at the College de France, in conjunction with Miller and Rose (2008), so as to provide a critique of the Neoliberal entrepreneurial self. Central objective of Part Two is to examine the 'governing of humanity', in the context of Neoliberal governmental rationality and market reform of public sector services (with emphasis on recent healthcare market reform).

Part Three, raises pertinent issues about the aesthetics and visual media of NGO international charities. Central objective of Part Three is to illuminate spectacular genre in the multi-modal technologies for advertising humanitarian causes.

Part Four, engages with the embodiment of consumer citizenship; the body as a site of self-discipline; body praxis, life-politics; and cultural political resistance to the commodity-sign.

Part Five, examines Fairtrade branding and the geopolitics of ethical consumerism in the context of global advertising media technologies.

Convener: Pam Odih

SO71108B Cultural Policy and City Branding 30 CATS

Cultural policy, especially at local level, has been called on to play an increasing set of functions in recent decades. Cities, in particular post-industrial cities in the West, have seen in ‘culture’ a lever for regeneration, one that could be harnessed by targeted policies. However, all the main concepts at play – city, culture and policy – have been subjected to increasing scrutiny in social theory and research: expansion but also problematisation of the notion of culture; diversification and renewed centrality of the city as physical, social and political context; reformulation of cultural policy beyond regulations and policy process towards wider issues of governmentality, democracy and participation.

The module will present recent theoretical advances as well as empirical findings on these topics, focusing on key themes such as culture-led regeneration, place branding, cultural taste, and others relevant to the understanding of contemporary cities. These key themes will also be explored through a case study approach, aimed both at providing a space for in-depth investigation, and inspiration for students to identify and select contemporary cases to be developed for their final essay.

Assessment: 5-6,000 word essay

Module convenor: Monica Sassatelli

SO71109B Social Life on the Brink: Disasters and Societies 30 CATS

What are disasters? How can societies anticipate, prepare for and respond to them? Who do they affect and why? And how can we understand disasters and their effects sociologically? These are some of the questions around which this module will operate. Drawing in part on case studies from ongoing research in the sociology department, the module explores a number of deeply interconnected issues. These include the particular methodological challenges that researching disasters might pose, what studying disasters might reveal about the relationships between ‘experts’ and ‘lay’ people, as well as between nature and society and between states and societies. The module will also explore the role of international humanitarian practices in shaping the perceptions and governance of risk and disasters. In so doing, the module will introduce students to a diverse body of literature, including work emanating from Science and Technology Studies, from the sociology and anthropology of disaster, from the sociology of organisations, as well as from international development literature. Throughout, the module will also explore these issues not only from sociological, but also practitioner perspectives.

Assessment: 15 Min Presentation + 4-5,000 word essay

Module convenor: Michael Guggenheim

Programme specification

To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.

Student profiles


"It has given me a solid theoretical grounding to back up my practical observations."

Having spent a few years travelling after my undergraduate degree, I became interested in trying to understand the huge differences in urban lifestyles across the globe. To this end, the WCUL programme has given me a solid theoretical grounding to back up my practical observations. What's more, in the time since I started studying again, I've also found employment with a magazine specialising in coverage of the built environment – which is exactly what I was aiming for in choosing this course. All in all, the decision to come back to the UK for further study at Goldsmiths has definitely paid off.


"We are free to discuss any ideas, bring our own perspective but also face and be able to produce critical analysis."

I have chosen Goldsmiths because it is the only university which provides this specific Masters programme in sociology, as i was highly interested in urban studies and sociological research. After attending first the welcoming events at the university and then first classes, I felt almost like at home: meeting nice people from around the world in classes and dorms, receiving help and advice from professors at any step of my academic life (it is crucially important when you have been studying in a different education system all your life), walking around the area and finding specially 'my' places to feel comfortable in.

I like our classes, where we have, of course, a guideline and reading list, also we are free to discuss any ideas, bring our own perspective but also face and be able to produce critical analysis. What i also like is being a MA student representative (and the whole institution of representation of students' issues and attitudes), it gives a chance for students to discuss any (academic) issues with professors and the department to guide an MA programme and orient it towards not only formal requirements but also students' preferences and interests.  

Skills and Careers


Analytical and research skills that intersect basic sociological knowledge with that of architecture, the built environment, cultural and postcolonial theory, geography, planning, digital communications, and ethnography as they apply to the study of cities across the world.


The training in this programme is applicable to work in multilateral institutions, NGOs, urban research institutes, municipal government, cultural and policy institutions, urban design firms, and universities.

Suggested Preliminary Reading

  • Amin, A and Thrift, N (2002) Cities, Reimagining the Urban, Cambridge, Polity
  • Amin, A , Massey, D and Thrift, N (2000) Cities for the Many not the Few, Bristol: The Policy Press
  • Benjamin, W. & Tiedemann, R, (1999) The Arcades Project, Harvard University Press.
  • Davis, M (2007) Planet of Slums, Verso.
  • Jacobs, J, (1989) The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage Books.
  • Massey, D (2005) For Space, London: Sage
  • Pile, S and Thrift N (2000) City A-Z, London: Routledge
  • Ross, A (2011) Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, OUP USA.
  • Thrift, N and Dewsbury, J D (2000) 'Dead geographies – and how to make them live' Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Vol. 18, p411-432

Content last modified: 14 Oct 2014

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