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Master of Urban Studies in the field of Sustainable Energy Efficient Cities

The Master of Urban Studies in the field of Sustainable Energy Efficient Cities (MUS (SEEC)) qualification is a one year full-time (or two-year part-time) programme on sustainability, climate change, and energy studies with a focus on cities, settlements, buildings and architecture.

As the centres of human habitation as well as production and consumption, cities and their respective built environments pose a double-edged sustainability dilemma for humanity with regard to challenges versus intervention, adaptation and mitigation opportunities. 

Based on a multi-disciplinary approach, the programme admits students with honours-level qualification in diverse disciplines including the built environment, engineering, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. 

The course starts early to mid-February and ends with submission of the research report for examination by mid-December. Students registered on a part-time basis undertake their research report in Year 2 of their study and must submit their reports by mid-December of that year. This degree is offered mostly on a block release. However, the course ‘Understanding Cities of the South’ is offered on a weekly basis throughout the first semester, and the course ‘Environmental Planning and Sustainable Development’ is offered on a weekly basis throughout the second semester.

In the second year of the part time route, part-time candidates have to attend the Research Methods for one full day every two weeks for the first quarter of the year. There are several research progress presentations scheduled across the remainder of the year.

Graduates of this qualification can expect to play a significant role in the transition processes towards greening the economy, consumption and lifestyles in the South African, regional and global economies and markets as well as related policies and institutional transformations. 


Please note the curriculum is undergoing some changes. The curriculum in 2023 will not be exactly as described below but will be similar.

The MUS (SEEC) 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 elective course allows for individual specialisation beyond the essential urban management competencies taught in the compulsory courses. The degree is structured as follows:

  • 4 compulsory Category A courses (70 points)
  • 1 elective from Category B (20 points)
  • Research Report (90 points)
ARPL 7010A Understanding Cities of the South (20)

Understanding the many forces that shape cities of the south. These include development processes (legal, economic (formal and informal), governance issues, environmental issues, transport, land use, infrastructure, services etc.), power and politics (macroeconomics, structural adjustment, questions of sovereignty, gender, poverty, inequality etc.) as well as the discourses of modernity, globalisation and post-colonialism. 

ARPL7054A Energy for Sustainable Cities (20)

The course covers five key topics: Global and urban energy mix andchallenges; Urban scale EE and REstrategies; Operational building-scale EE and REstrategies; Embodied energystrategies; Markets, policies, programmes, legislation and institutionalstructures.

ARPL7055A Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for Buildings (20)

The course covers five key topics: Motivation, brief and assessment tools for EE and RE forbuildings; Integrated design concept for EE and RE forbuildings; Design development in EE and RE forbuildings; Procurement and post-occupation monitoring for EE and RE integrated buildings; EE and RE retrofit for existing buildings.

ARPL 7040 Research Methods (10)

The course familiarises the learner with research methods, articulation of research questions and identification of types of data (qualitative or quantitative). This leads to the different methods of data collection, with an additional emphasis on conducting surveys. The course covers approaches to analysing both qualitative and quantitative data. In particular, the learner will gain an applied understanding of statistics in analysis of quantitative data through the use of statistical programs.

ARPL 7032 Environmental Planning & Sustainable Development (20)

This unit responds to the need to examine urban environments from the management and planning perspectives to promote sustainable urban development. It promotes sustainable development by drawing on and integrating theories and perspectives from the established disciplines of urban planning; urban and regional development; economic development; and public policy and management in a developing country/city context. The field deals with environmental problems such as poor urban housing, poor water supply and sanitation, inadequate solid waste and wastewater management, vulnerability and adaptation to disaster and climate change risks, land use conflicts and deteriorating environmental quality in the home, workplace, neighbourhood, city and region. The unit seeks to foster a commitment to social justice and ethical practice. Students learn to critically engage with participatory, inter-professional and multi-disciplinary ways of working in the urban environment.

ARPL 7005A Social and Technical Sustainability in Housing (20)

To be discontinued from 2023 onwards 

Critical analysis of the interaction between housing and the social/cultural, economic and biophysical environment; approaches to enhance sustainability of housing and mitigate negative impacts, and to sensitively and constructively engage with local communities and service providers to identify and tackle housing challenges. The socio-cultural component of this course addresses issues of exclusion, displacement, illegality, gender and generational biases, as well as health issues such as HIV/Aids. It covers conceptual and theoretical debates as well as practical approaches that have been developed in response to these problems. The importance of inter-sectoral interventions are emphasised. 

ARPL 7059A Accessible City Studio (20)

This course focusses on issues of urban accessibility: socio-economic issues, informalisation, migrants, immigrants and refugees, movement and transportation, inclusiveness and exclusiveness, human rights, gender, children, aged and groups with special needs and poverty.

ARPL7053A Research Report (90)

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