Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

By 2050, rapid urbanisation worldwide will lead to nearly 70% of world population living in urban areas. Understanding the key drivers and consequences of urbanisation in coming years is crucial to the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In this unit, students will investigate the dynamic and rapidly changing urban and social fabric of cities and the processes that influence these changes. In particular, students will examine how changes in the urban environment reflect relationships between people and places, how and why people choose to live in cities, and how these choices are constrained by wider economic and cultural forces. Students will discuss contemporary changes in housing, employment, transport, retail, sustainability, ethnicity, and community in cities, with a particularly focus on urban inequality and social justice in cities as critical issues. The important and often interconnected roles of government and private sectors in shaping urban forms and communities will be critically examined in the context of ongoing debates around public and private spaces and infrastructure. This unit features a strong focus on geographical skills development relevant to urban geography and planning, with hands-on learning activities focused on urban mapping, remote citizen statistic collection and observation, and the access and use of urban community data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and local and state government bodies. Students will learn to apply decision-making processes used contemporary urban environmental management, including Scenario Planning, to an urban research project of their own design.

The aim of this unit is to enable students to develop an understanding of different urban processes and forms, to develop key geographical skills that can be applied to understanding how and why cities are changing, and how ethical concepts and policy approaches may be applied to ensure sustainable urban development and outcomes. Students from all backgrounds are welcome to enrol in this unit, though students would usually be in their third year, and previous study in Geography, Sociology, or Politics is strongly recommended.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and evaluate key concepts and theoretical approaches in urban geography (GA1, GA5)

LO2 - Demonstrate knowledge and a critical understanding of contemporary patterns, problems and processes behind economic, social and cultural urban transformations at a range of scales (GA4, GA5)

LO3 - Organise, critically evaluate, and present knowledge and information from a range of data sources (including academic literature, policy documents, and data) in an audience-appropriate format (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Discuss social justice issues that exist in urban places and communities (GA2, GA9)

LO5 - Reflect on your own experiences of cities and contextualise these within the social and environmental challenges of urban places (GA1, GA2, GA4)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Cities as Indigenous places
  • Rapid urbanisation and mega cities
  • Public versus private space and infrastructure
  • Urban economic transformations
  • Urban greening, ecology and environmental justice
  • Creative cities and night-time economies
  • Urban governance and policy
  • Sustainable urbanization and urban resilience
  • Climate-friendly, ‘smart’ cities and urban decarbonisation
  • Gentrification, housing markets and policy, homelessness
  • Urbanisation, suburbinisation, and inequalities across cities
  • Decision making approaches for urban environments, including scenario planning
  • Privacy, safety and government and industry urban surveillance

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit will use both face-to-face and/or multimedia forms of instruction, and field-based teaching. The in-class lecture component is used to convey new material and offer students the chance to engage and ask questions in person. The tutorial portion of the course is to be used as a resource to offer students the opportunity to put their knowledge learned in lectures to use and gain hands-on experience and learn and practice Geographical skills.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The assessment strategy allows students to engage in a variety of tasks, each aligned to their own learning outcomes.

The first assessment is an annotated bibliography, focused on key readings discussed in tutorials, and also urban geography scholarship relevant to a local urban place. The annotated bibliography serves to prepare students for this unit’s research project. using and interpreting information on cities and urban communities. The second assessment task is a reflective journal throughout the semester which charts learning and professional development in the unit, their research development, and also their own understanding of their own experiences and connections with cities. In the third assessment, students will draw on key geographical skills in geospatial, text analysis, and field work developed in previous geography, environment and society units to analyses a contested urban space. This is a substantial piece of academic research which will culminate as individual student poster presentations at a student-led conference at the end of semester.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Annotated Bibliography: Students will undertake an annotated bibliography focused on (1) key readings discussed in tutorials, and (2) published research on a local urban place (in preparation for assessment 2)


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Reflective journal: Students will complete an online-based reflective journal throughout semester focused on their learning and professional development as a geographer in the unit, and also reflecting on ‘doing’ urban research and their findings


LO4, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA9

Research Task: This task requires students to undertake research on a local urban problem using appropriate geographic skills, and apply a process of scenario planning to develop several decision scenarios, with your findings presented as a professional academic poster presentation


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Bibri, S.E., 2018. Smart sustainable cities of the future. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Davoudi, Simin & Bell, Derek (eds.) 2016, Justice and fairness in the city: a multi-disciplinary approach to 'ordinary' cities, Policy Press.

Fyfe, N. and KENNY, J. eds., 2020. The urban geography reader. Routledge.

Goodspeed, R. 2020. Scenario Planning for Cities and Regions: Managing and Envisioning Uncertain Futures. Columbia University Press.

Hall, T. and Barrett, H., 2018. Urban geography. Routledge.

Jayne, M. and Ward, K. eds., 2016. Urban theory: new critical perspectives. Taylor & Francis.

Knox, P. and Pinch, S., 2014. Urban social geography: an introduction. Routledge.

Isenhour, C. et al. 2015. Sustainability in the Global City: Myth and Practice. Cambridge, Melbourne.

Jonas, A.E.G., McCann, E. and Thomas, M. 2015. Urban Geography: a Critical Introduction. Wiley, Chichester.

Peris-Ortiz, M., Bennett, D.R., and Yabar, D.P.B. (Eds.) 2017. Sustainable Smart Cities Creating Spaces for Technological, Social and Business Development. Springer

Rogers, Dallas et al. (Eds.). 2020, Understanding urbanism, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

Simon, D. (Ed.), 2016. Rethinking sustainable cities: Accessible, green and fair. Policy Press, Bristol.

Tomlinson, R. and Spiller, M. eds., 2018. Australia's metropolitan imperative: An agenda for governance reform. CSIRO Publishing.

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