Meeting the needs of the 21st century’s cities
Lingnan’s innovative new Master programme in Cities and Governance, which will be launched in September 2020, aims to equip students with the type of practical skills and understandings required to tackle the huge challenges facing today’s mega-cities and regions.
Throughout history people have migrated to urban centres but the scale of today’s metropolises, and their rate of growth, particularly in Asia and Africa, and most notably in China, is unprecedented. In the 1970s, the population of Shenzhen, just across the border from Lingnan, was numbered in the tens of thousands. By 2017 it was home to just under 13 million registered citizens, with the actual population believed to be millions higher.
This is, of course, placing much greater demands on their provision of basic services such as health and housing. However, many challenges are unique to the modern age, explains Professor Ray Forrest, Research Professor in Cities and Social Change and Programme Founding Director of the Master of Cities and Governance. Sustainability, climate change, air quality, and other issues concerning the overall experience of city life, are increasingly seen as interconnected and requiring urgent attention. But one of the most significant pressures on city governance arises from the way in which globalised capital flows are stoking property speculation.
“The problem you now see in Hong Kong, and in all the world’s major cities, are rising property prices and rising rents,” Professor Forrest points out.
What’s more the nature of city governance itself is also changing, he adds, due to the increasing readiness of urban government to share responsibility with a wide range of organisations and communities, including NGOs and private sector actors.
The skills needed to manage the modern city
All this means that, in turn, the range of knowledge and skills required to manage cities effectively has evolved. “A lot of the existing programmes on city planning or city management tend to be less interdisciplinary, and instead focused much more on technical aspects,” notes Professor Forrest. “Whereas this master programme, I would claim, is much more people-centric.”
The Lingnan programme blends the applied and the theoretical, and incorporates a large volume of experiential learning. Students will go out and see what’s being built, and the types of issues to be tackled in areas such as housing, health and mobility. “Field visits in the region are going to be very much focused on giving people real experiences that will be relevant when they go into real jobs.”
The goal is to equip graduates for careers that engage with all aspects of urban governance and public policy in relation to cities, whether it be in government, or with quasi-government bodies, NGOs, think tanks or corporations - especially those corporations engaged in the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA). The GBA, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macau and nine major cities in Guangdong, is a region officially earmarked for significant development by the Chinese government.
Structure and courses
To ensure graduates develop an informed view of the key challenges facing today’s cities and the ways in which they might contribute to managing these, the Master of Cities and Governance will draw together input from a broad range of disciplines: history, business, economics, politics, social policy, sociology and science.
The insights that history, for example, provides into tangible and intangible heritage and culture can help in the formulation of strategies for developing and preserving a sense of community and belonging. And with societal ageing having a huge impact on the functioning of modern cities, this programme is able to draw on the work of the Lingnan-based Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies.
Offered in one-year full-time or two-year part-time formats, this programme consists of the following courses:
- Cities and Social Change
- Smart and Sustainable Cities
- China's Regional Economic Development
- Global Connections and Cultural Diversity: Exploring China-Africa Relations
- History, Heritage and Regional Perspectives
- Intangible Cultural and Heritage Conservation
- Regional Policy Study and Visit in the Greater Bay Area
- Understanding Social Indicators and Social Policies
- Ageing Policies in Greater China
“This programme reflects the liberal arts ethos of Lingnan, and takes a more holistic view of what matters in the governance of cities,” Professor Forrest explains. “But we are also combining that with a solid knowledge of regional policy, particularly in relation to the Greater Bay Area.”
While the programme will look at similar clusters of cities in the United States and Japan, it will use the GBA as its ‘laboratory’.
Beyond the breadth of expertise offered by Lingnan’s own faculty, the programme will also make use of specialists from a number of other universities in Hong Kong and China, including the South China University of Technology, via the Joint Research Centre for the Greater Bay Area Social Policy and Governance. What’s more, students will benefit from an even greater international perspective, through the input of Lingnan’s global partners, such as the UK’s University College London and University of Sussex.