School of Architecture and Planning

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Master of Urban Studies in the field of Housing and Human Settlements

The MUS (HHS) aims to develop practical, managerial, analytical, and spatial skills, as well as social and cultural sensitivities, to meet housing challenges in the unevenly developing world. 

Students are offered the unique opportunity to engage with housing issues from a multi-disciplinary, internationalist perspective. The coursework covers theoretical, conceptual, social, technical, managerial, legal, financial and planning aspects of housing and includes electives that deepen the engagement with housing in specialised areas.

Through the substantial research component, students are given the opportunity to critically explore a particular aspect of their interest in housing. Students are taught and supervised by a multi-disciplinary team of scholars.


The MUS (HHS) consists of coursework and research. The coursework, which has the same credit weighting as the research component, is designed to complement the research enquiry. The electives  allows for individual specialisation beyond the essential competencies taught in the compulsory courses. The degree is structured as follows:

  • 4 compulsory courses (70 points):
    • Understanding Cities of the South (20)
    • Theory and Practice of Housing and Human Settlements (20)
    • In-situ and Incremental Human Settlement Development (20)
    • Research Methods (10)
  • 1 elective (20 points)
  • Research Report (90 points)

Compulsory Courses:

ARPL 7010A Understanding Cities of the South (20)

This course focuses on understanding the many forces that shape cities of the south, which includes development processes (legal, economic (formal and informal), governance issues, environmental issues, transport, land use, infrastructure, services etc.), power and politics (macro-economics, structural adjustment, questions of sovereignty, gender, poverty, inequality etc.) and the discourses of modernity, globalisation and post-colonialism.

ARPL7037A Theory and Practice of Housing and Human Settlements (20)

This course enables candidates to engage critically with housing and human settlements policy from historical, economic, and theoretical angles with local, regional and international perspectives. It addresses diverse forms of housing from individual to collective and facilitates the understanding and application of global agendas and concepts, such as inclusion and sustainability. Housing finance regimes and the regulatory environment for state and private sector housing finance are also covered. Candidates gain a core understanding of the entire policy cycle, which incorporates policy implementation, challenges of appropriate capacity building in human settlements institutions, policy analysis and evaluation as well as the long-term management and maintenance of housing stock.

ARPL7072A In-situ and Incremental Human Settlement Development (20)

This course enables candidates to engage constructively with unplanned and incremental housing and human settlement approaches from the perspective of physical, social and governance challenges. It does so through the analysis of local, regional and international examples. The course enables candidates to critically consider the role of temporary solutions against mainstream and alternative entry points to a trajectory of permanence for unplanned occupation and adaptation, whether of land or existing buildings. Candidates will gain a critical understanding of relevant infrastructure and incremental construction processes, incremental finance mechanisms that support this, as well as applicable human rights, land regularisation and tenure approaches.

ARPL7052A Technologies and Techniques of the Built Environment (where deemed necessary) (10)

The course introduces procedural and analytical techniques used in planning and involves the practical application of appropriate technologies, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), computer based mapping and computer packages for data analysis and the presentation of graphics.

ARPL7040A Research Methods (10)

The course has three distinct aims: Firstly, the course hopes to create enthusiasm for research. Secondly, the course familiarises students with research in the urban/built environment field, various approaches and techniques, pitfalls etc. The course equips students with the workplace skills of preparing appropriate research briefs for others, of engaging in a wide range of research types, and of judging appropriateness and soundness of research carried out by themselves and others. Thirdly, the course prepares students for the process of research proposal writing and carrying out of a substantial research piece that meets the standards required of the degree.


ARPL7053A Research Report (90)

Each student is individually guided in their search of a relevant housing research topic, and supervised throughout the proposal writing, research and report-writing process. The 25-30 000 word research report is externally examined.

Elective Courses

ARPL7020A Project Management in Developing Areas (20)

This course focuses on basic theories of development economics, cultural and socio-political factors, issues and problems in the management of development projects and basic principles of project management as applied to the management of construction projects in developing areas.

ARPL7032A Environmental Planning and Sustainable Development (20)

This course has two components and covers various forms of environmental management and planning, including Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Integrated Environmental Management (IEM), and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

1) The first component introduces and provides a critical perspective on the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development and with the notion of the “sustainable city.”

2) The second component, environmental planning, introduces candidates to ecological fundamentals, environmental ethics, the idea of environmental risk and. thereafter the course deals with the basics of environmental and resource economics.

ARPL7044A Community Participation in Urban Governance: Theories, Discourses and Practices (20)

The course critically engages with development and planning theories, ‘good governance’ discourses and political literature (from the local to the global levels), and question them in particular through the study of the practices of community participation and the various types of challenges these practices entail with a particular focus at empowering students to communicate their findings to different audiences, using different methodologies and in particular graphic devices.

ARPL7054A Energy for Sustainable Cities (20)

The course covers five key topics:

1) Global and urban energy mix and challenges

2) Urban scale EE and RE strategies

3) Operational building-scale EE and RE strategies

4) Embodied energy strategies

5) Markets, policies, programmes, legislation and institutional structures

ARPL7063A Governance and Municipal Planning (20)

This course focuses on municipal planning within the context of ‘developmental local governance’ and covers the following topics: municipal powers; structure and functions; municipal budgeting systems; the international experience with municipal planning; South African forms of planning; planning process; sectoral plans and integration of these plans; the planning and delivery of municipal infrastructure; project packaging; and performance management.

ARPL7071A Theory and Practice of Urban Management (20)

This course introduces the field of urban management through four critical dimensions: managing the politics of policy, managing change in participatory ways, effecting relevant integration, and navigating between theory and practice. This course cuts them to four dimensions and engages critically with the urban economy. This interactive course explores its themes through case studies of urban management practice in selected cities across the world, with an emphasis on the Global South. Through a local field trip and engagement with urban managers, the course connects candidates with real life praxis in a reflective manner. It allows candidates to develop their own position on urban management and provides a critical frame for the remaining modules in the MUS (Urban Management) field.

ARPL7074A Theory Politics and Governance of Extended Urbanisation (20)

This course supports candidates in actively building conceptual insights relevant to the diversity of urban contexts across the globe. It involves candidates in theoretical critique and concept development, focusing on (a) extended urbanisation, (b) city regions, and (c) the diverse, fragmented, and dispersed form of urban settlements on city edges. The implications of this for urban governance is also covered. The course develops skills in linking empirical evidence and research to evolving concepts. It focuses on a particular context, examining the complex ways in which actors and organisations involved in urban development operate. Core skills in the ethics of urban development policy through pedagogy and practice are covered, which support the engaged and collaborative production of urban knowledge, policy, and interventions.