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MRes Architecture (Reading the Neoliberal City)

Course overview

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Subject area

Architecture, Computing and Engineering





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Course summary

This multi-disciplinary course analyses the impact of capitalist neoliberalism on development. It examines neoliberal policies over the last 30 years and their effects on urban layout, property markets, architectural form and social justice. Although sited within the architecture department we welcome applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines.

The course is comprised of four modules: Reading the Neoliberal City; Psychogeography and Situationism; Ethical Development and the Digital City. Topics for study include the housing crisis and the privatisation of cities, investigating the financialisation of the urban environment, polarisation and the consequences for citizens in terms of trust and fear. The modules on Ethical Development and the Digital City focus on potential alternatives to the neoliberal city. 

Architecture at UEL is based in our Docklands campus, in a pioneer area for neoliberal development and a key study site for the course. But while London is the focus, the global impact of these processes, which are relevant across the world, provides the context.

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If you have any questions, talk to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0) 20 8223 3333 or email

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Extensive skills

The MRes is equivalent to a phd and will equip you with high level research and writing skills, grounded in critical thinking. Alongside the development of critical writing skills, the use of visual media, including film and photography, is an important component.

Diverse topics

The course challenges conventional orthodoxies with regard to the impact of policy on cities, housing and development and will develop your ability to construct an effective theoretical critique around these issues.

Award-winning department

Our department is renowned for its award-winning students and academics. Two of our architecture lecturers are part of a collective that won the prestigious Turner Prize 2015.

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What we're researching

Our academic team combines world-class teaching with an enquiring research approach. Programme Leader Anna Minton is the author of Ground Control, published by Penguin and her forthcoming book on the housing crisis, Big Capital: Who is London for? also published by Penguin in summer 2017. Tony Fretton, principal of Tony Fretton Architects, teaches on the course and is a thesis supervisor. Gilles Retsin, senior lecturer in Architecture and Debra Shaw, Reader in Cultural Theory, teach on the Digital City module. Gilles focuses on how architecture is absorbing the digital, creating buildings and spaces without exteriors or facades while Debra’s work investigates the notion of the ‘cyber flaneur’ in the city. 

Guest lecturers are a key component of the course and include politicians, leading industry figures, artists and activists. Recent speakers include Conservative and Green party politicians and developer Chris Brown who will be participating in next year’s module on ethical development. We have an ongoing collaboration with Sian Berry, the chair of the housing group at the Greater London Authority who is also involved with the ethical development module.

Our approach to teaching and research is symbiotic, with teaching feeding into research and vice versa, which is reflected by the success of the MRes in offering a route towards phd study. Two of our students last year are continuing onto phd study in a diverse range of areas. One applicant is looking at the potential for self-build in collaboration with Brighton and Hove Borough Council and the other is pursuing a practice based phd based on a large scale infrastructure project to build 500,000 homes in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other ongoing research projects involve a study into housing and mental health with the mental health charity MIND and a Leverhulme Artist in Residence grant to develop a community music project about regeneration in Newham.

Making a difference

UEL is one of the UK’s leading modern research universities. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), 17 per cent of our overall research submission was classified as ‘world-leading’ for its quality and impact – almost double our previous REF score. A further 45 per cent of our work was considered ‘internationally excellent’.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:2 Honours

We would normally expect you to have Grade C in GCSE English and Maths. 


(Including European Union)

We accept a range of qualifications from across the world. Please see our country pages for information on specific entry requirements for your country.


In considering applicants we will look for evidence of a candidate’s ability and background knowledge in relation to the proposed field of study. On receipt of your application you will be assessed for suitability for entry to the programme and if acceptable will be sent a list of research projects to select from. You will be required to submit a short written justification for your project selection.  All applicants will be interviewed prior to confirming an offer of a place on the programme.

A written statement in support of your application of a maximum of 1,500 words outlining academic and professional background, career objectives and reasons for choosing the MRes Programme.

Overall IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening (or recognised equivalent).

As an inclusive university we recognise that applicants who have been out of education for some time may not have the formal qualifications usually required for entry to a course. We welcome applications from those who can demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment to study and have relevant life/work experience that equips them to succeed on the course. We will assess this from the information provided in your application (particularly your personal statement) and may ask you to attend an interview or submit a piece of work to help us decide on your eligibility for the course. Our pre-entry Information Advice and Guidance Team are able to provide further advice on entry requirements and suitability for study.

You can speak to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0)20 8223 3333, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, you can visit our Information, Advice and Guidance centre. Please click here for details.

What you'll study

  • Critical Writing (core)                                   
  • Critical Studies (core)                                   
  • The Production of Place (core)                                 
  • Thesis (core)

How you'll be assessed

The course is assessed through a mixture of taught modules and a thesis, which make up 180 academic credits for a master’s degree. A part-time version of the course is available, which can be completed over two years.

Course specification

How you'll learn

The course will help you develop your critical writing and thinking skills. It will also focus your architectural practice on an urban scale, increase your understanding of contemporary regeneration issues in a European context and empower you to overcome cultural barriers such as glass ceilings for women in practice.

The teaching team comprises independent but like-minded professionals and academics, each of whom brings a critical perspective to urban discourse based on academic research, social policy development and the practice of architecture and urban regeneration.

The module leaders is Anna Minton, author of Ground Control. The supervisors are: Tony Fretton, Emeritus Professor at TU Delft and director of Tony Fretton Architects; Katherine Clarke, director at muf architecture/art; and Maria Alessandra Segantini, director of C+S Architects. Alan Chandler, director of the conservation practice Arts, Lettres, Techniques, is the Course Leader.

The course will help you develop your own ideas on the critical operation of cities and their development and regeneration - both individually and as part of research teams. 

Supported by focused research skills teaching, you will define, organise and execute original urban research. The European Workshop, in particular, gives you the chance to gain experience of working on live urban projects with influential collaborators from practice, communities and administrations, and other stakeholders in the project.

On-going assignments and outputs allow for critical and stimulating feedback and learning opportunities to provide the substance of your final thesis.  

The use of visual media, including film and photography, is an important component, encouraging you to engage directly with place. You will also participate in a filmmaking workshop and complete a photographic essay.

What you'll learn

The MRes in Architecture course is aimed at a range of professionals and students from around the world who are engaged in the built environment - from architects and planners to developers and activists. 

It is geared towards working professionals but is also a means for practitioners seeking new employment pathways, or re-entry to the job market, to improve their skills base in critical thinking and writing, both of which are crucial to successful practice.

The compact attendance commitment and the flexibility of tutorial engagement within the Production of Place module is especially suitable for working professionals, providing a blended, part-time learning experience.

The course offers you a critical perspective on the development of cities, challenging conventional orthodoxies about growth in cities and critiquing familiar concepts such as ‘regeneration’ and ‘sustainability’.

Your studies will focus on London’s Docklands from the 1980s to the developments associated with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

By contrasting the roll-out of neo-liberal policies with their impact on social justice, it will offer lessons for cities around the UK and internationally.

Your future career

Any practitioner contemplating a part-time or full-time career in teaching would benefit from this course.

Existing academic staff on fractional contracts within built environment programmes will also benefit from a sound academic writing qualification that is valued by universities.

This course is designed to gives the opportunity to enhance your current thinking, writing and communication skills to a level suitable to commence doctoral study for a PhD.

The precision this requires is an asset in the professional marketplace, and by focussing the themes of urban regeneration and the political mechanisms of the city, the course delivers invaluable insights into urban practice.

Through active participation in the course, you will acquire critical insights and practical experiences of urban regeneration in its widest sense.

As part of UEL's Place Production Research Group, we aim to be Britain's leading centre for critical thinking about cities. Our programme of research for the coming academic year includes a one day conference on the housing crisis, co hosted with Birkbeck and the academic journal City. 

Our partners also include Guardian Cities, the Cities website of The Guardian newspaper and The Chisenhale Gallery in Mile End, East London.

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Meet us in your country

Our international team travel overseas regularly to meet prospective students and attend recruitment fairs. Our academics also give regular lectures overseas and are happy to speak to prospective students. In addition, we have a large worldwide network of advisors who can provide guidance and support with applying to study at the University of East London.

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