MA Program:
Critical Urbanisms

Interdisciplinary and International Study

The University of Basel’s Master in Critical Urbanisms draws on a diverse faculty from across the humanities, social sciences, and design disciplines to develop ways of interdisciplinary learning. At its core stands a pedagogical model, a jointly taught research studio that immerses students in collaborative research. The second semester offers fascinating possibilities to our students to explore and discuss different aspects of urban life. Research focuses primarily on cities in the African and broader global southern context as crucial sites for the analysis of everyday forms of agency central to contemporary urbanisms. As such, they acquire relevant practical and theoretical knowledge of the social, economic, cultural, and political processes that make up cities and territories. Interdisciplinary proficiency and international experience will enable graduates of the program to interact effectively with the broad range of constituents and institutions that play a vital role in shaping the future of cities.

The Degree Program

The University of Basel’s Master in Critical Urbanisms is taught in English, the second cohort started in Fall 2018. Administered by Urban Studies faculty members and staff within the Department of Social Science, the program builds upon existing departments and research centers at the University of Basel, notably the Centre for African Studies and eikones. Students also benefit from a close collaboration between the University of Basel and the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.

Research Studio

Taken in the first and third semesters, the research studio immerses students in collaborative, interdisciplinary research practice that combines humanities and social-scientific methods with visual and spatial analysis and representation. Jointly taught by core and affiliated faculty, with regular visits by external experts, the studio takes place in a dedicated studio space that acts as a laboratory in which small teams of students hailing from different disciplinary backgrounds can work closely together. Students work on a range of outputs, from essays to illustrated booklets, maps and diagrams, photographic projects, videos, and installations. This work will be assembled and edited for public presentation as the collective outcome of the research studio.

Cape Town Semester

Fifteen students will have the possibility to study one semester at the University of Cape Town, centering on the topic African Urbanisms. The semester focuses on African Urbanisms, exploring cities in the African and broader global southern context as crucial sites for the analysis of everyday forms of agency central to contemporary urbanism. The semester provides students with exciting opportunities to engage with varied aspects of city life and debate. Study space in Cape Town is limited and is therefore not guaranteed. Students can also participate in year-long course at the University of Basel in anthropological fieldwork methods that will include a field trip to the African continent during the winter break.


Urban Studies faculty teach seminars and lecture courses on a variety of urban topics aimed to help students gain in-depth knowledge of specific disciplinary approaches. Students may also take elective courses from the rich offerings at the University of Basel (e.g., in African Studies, Anthropology, and through the Centre of Competence Cultural Topographies), as well as at the University of Cape Town.

Master’s Thesis

The master’s thesis is an independent, academically rigorous work through which students identify a research problem in an area of urban studies and, by engaging with this problem, develop knowledge that can answer theoretical and/or practical questions. While thesis work is independent and distinct from the work pursued in the research studio, it ideally builds upon the studio. Even though theses will be submitted in conventional form (approximately eighty pages of text on average), students are encouraged to supplement their written work with a practice-based and/or visual component to make their findings accessible to broader audiences.

For Whom?

The program targets international and Swiss students in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. It is likely also to be of interest to academically qualified professionals from the fields of architecture, urban planning, and environmental management. English proficiency is required.

Career Perspectives

The program prepares students for careers in a variety of national and international contexts, from research institutions to local, regional, and national government planning offices to development aid organizations, NGOs, architecture and design firms, museums, urban planning and policy offices, international organizations, universities, and consultancy firms. Students will be equipped and are also encouraged to continue their studies at the PhD level.

How to Apply

The MA program starts in the fall semester. Applications for admission need to be submitted through the Student Administration Office of the University of Basel. Applications are due by 30 April and can only be reviewed once they are complete.

We recommend that you contact us beforehand by emailing Michelle Killenberger.

Michelle Killenberger
+41 61 207 58 37

International Students

Since the application process for a study permit for non-EU citizens can take up to four months, and this process can only be started after the letter of admission is issued, we highly recommend that students submit their complete application as early as possible.

Financial Aid

Tuition costs at the University of Basel are low compared with many international institutions of similar calibre. For information on tuition and living expenses, see the University’s FAQs. Partial fellowships are available to contribute towards the costs of travel to and from Cape Town.