Universiteit Leiden

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Urban Studies (BA)

Cities are more relevant than ever. They play an increasingly important role in the issues of this time: climate change, inequality, safety and health. Our Urban Studies programme gives you the opportunity to be a problem solver, teaching you how to develop real-life answers to today’s and tomorrow’s urban challenges.

Why Urban Studies?

In 2050, around 70% of the world population is expected to live in urban centres, while at the moment, cities already are home to 55 %. This offers a vast number of social and economic opportunities, but at the same time, the challenges of urban growth are daunting. As a student of our Urban Studies programme, you will develop the academic and practical skills needed to deal with the challenges of urban life.

Bachelor's programme Urban Studies in The Hague

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Work on cutting-edge themes

Urban Studies is built on four themes that cover the major issues of today’s urban reality: the sustainable city, the multicultural city, the safe city and the healthy city. You will have the opportunity to specialise in one or several of these themes in the second or third year.

Take for instance, sustainability: how will we manage when it comes to dealing with issues such as waste and scarcity of natural resources in the cities? The other themes raise different questions. For example, what about the wide range of ethnic and socio-economic groups living in urban areas: how do we keep cities inclusive and just? How do we ensure that cities are safe places to live in for everyone? And what do we do about the health hazards that come with crowded cities?

Do you want to know all about cities?

In this English taught bachelor’s programme, you will explore a wide range of urban issues, while working both in the class room and in the field: the city itself. You will build a solid academic foundation, studying the theory on urban development, on the development of cities, and on the expected further developments. Additionally, in the course of the programme (second and third year), you will work on real-life urban challenges. Together with our non-academic partners and stakeholders, you will develop policy-relevant solutions for concrete urban problems.

In the course of the programme, you will acquire a solid set of methodological and professional skills in the field of urban studies. They will help you prepare for your future career – whether this career will be in academia, business or the public sector. Field trips to major Dutch cities, our career orientation programme and individual and group-based research projects guarantee valuable, hands-on experience.

Uniquely, you will have the opportunity to tailor the programme according to your personal interests by focusing on one or several of our themes: the sustainable city, the multicultural city, the safe city and the healthy city. In the second year, you will choose your specialisation courses. In the first semester of your third year you will have the opportunity to do an internship, study at a university abroad or do a minor, consisting of a selection of courses of your choice. During the final semester of your study, you will combine a practical course on urban problem-solving with the pièce de résistance of your Urban Studies experience, your final thesis.

Leave your comfort zone!

The challenges that are brought on by urban centres are complex, which means that solutions need to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Urban Studies programme at Leiden University brings together lecturers from the humanities, social and natural sciences, and law. You will be taught by expert staff with diverse backgrounds, including history, biology, ecology, philosophy, criminology, psychology, pedagogy, law and linguistics. In this way, you will be encouraged to leave your comfort zone in order to gain a broad, out-of-the-box perspective.

Urban Studies is unique in the Netherlands. It is the only interdisciplinary Urban Studies programme combining humanities, social sciences, law, science and language studies.

Why Urban Studies at Leiden University?

  • This bachelor’s programme is unique in the Netherlands in its multidisciplinary approach, incorporating disciplines from the humanities, social and natural sciences and law.
  • Lecturers who belong to the top in their field.
  • English-language teaching.
  • Excellent facilities in the heart of The Hague, seat of government and home to a wide range of international and national organisations.
  • Hands-on experience in research projects and field trips. Opportunity for study at a university abroad (in the third year).
  • Lively community of international students and lecturers.
  • Opportunity to follow your individual interests and map out your further career.
  • Perfect preparation for a career in academia, the public or private sector.

Is Urban Studies the programme for you?

  • Do you want to study urban challenges from multiple angles, looking beyond Urban Planning?
  • Do cities fascinate you?
  • Do you want to have the opportunity to make a real change?
  • Do you thrive in an international environment?
  • Do you want to be challenged into out-of-the-box, creative thinking?
  • Are you interested in looking at cities from many different perspectives?
  • Do you enjoy learning about urban history, psychology, biology, statistics and much more?

Check out the Urban Studies programme

John Boy

Lecturer in Urban Studies

John Boy

"I teach research methods with a focus on field methods: how do you study the social worlds of the city on site? In the first year courses it’s mainly about methods like observations and interviews. In the second year we’ll progress to more advanced techniques, like social network analysis and spatial analysis. Because Urban Studies is a broad programme with a foundation in the humanities, it will open up many opportunities. Some students might want to do a (research) master’s programme in Urban Studies after their bachelor’s, others may prefer a more technical master’s."

Valentijn Joosten


Valentijn Joosten

"I had always been interested in the built environment. I used to think this interest was physical, so to speak, but I noticed too that I enjoy thinking of the environment more broadly, socially, and theoretically. I had started reading books on urban issues; issues pertaining to the relationship between people and their urban environment. That’s why I chose urban studies. I found the programme through Leiden University’s website, and had inquired about the programme’s contents with former students! Having been in the programme for almost a year now, I can confidently say it was the right decision for me. Of course there are classes and aspects of the course I like more than others, but I think that’s a good thing. I think that as long as what is considered enjoyable or challenging differs from student to student, we can learn from each other."

Manon van der Heijden

Lecturer in Urban Studies

Manon van der Heijden

“It’s through cities’ past that we learn why and how they have become so important. But while history might explain cities as we know them today, it also creates false images. Did you know, for example, that cities are healthier, safer and more sustainable than they’ve ever been? Above all, Leiden University’s Urban Studies programme is about people, their opportunities, beliefs and perspectives.”

Online Experience Urban Studies

Want to know if Urban Studies is the right study for you? Check out our Online Experience, which consists of online mini-courses with a few assignments, just as if it were real first-year courses.

You can directly register for the Online Experience: this link will take you to the form. 

Chat with a student

Do you have a question about studying at Leiden University or student life in Leiden? Do you want more information about the Urban Studies programme? Chat with a current student for answers to your questions!

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