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Sustainable Cities, MSc in Engineering

Academic content

Academic content

The degree offered is Master of Science in Engineering (Sustainable Cities). The courses and the project work are carried out in English. Therefore, the programme is open to Danish as well as international students with a relevant Bachelor of Science degree in engineering or equivalent. All courses are offered at the Copenhagen campus. 

It is a priority for us that you have the opportunity to work with external partners, for instance in your semester projects, which can be carried out in cooperation with authorities, companies, NGOs, etc. This way you get to work on real life problems, preparing you for your professional carreer.

Semester 1
The role of organisations and business in sustainable cities

Each project group chooses a topic for their semester report within the theme of the semester. The topic can be primarily theoretical or empirical, and usually takes its point of departure in a specific policy, organisation, or an environmental problem. Our aim is to understand how planning can create niches within path dependent systems to foster sustainable urban development at the organisational level. 

Courses at the 1st semester:

Tools and approaches to sustainable development (5 ECTS)

The aim of the course is to inspire the students to use different tools and approaches to analyse and understand the challenges and opportunities that face the cities, as well as to be able to break the paths of the past, by introducing new technologies and new ways of organising and developing sustainable cities. The course focuses on a variety of tools and approaches from resources, transport and energy to behavior, participation and planning. The teaching will mainly include lectures and workshops, where the students will use the tools in practice. The course is focused on providing you with specific tools to further sustainable development in the cities, and the ability to critically reflect on these. The course enables the students to navigate between different types of tools (sector specific/cross-sector/project focus/policy focus). Topics may include: Lifecycle assessment, carbon and environmental foot printing, corporate social responsibility and input-output analysis.

Challenges and planning for sustainable cities (5 ECTS)

The course aims to provide a basic understanding of the challenges that cities face today in terms of providing more sustainable systems/infrastructures and supporting sustainable everyday practices. The course is aimed at enabling the students to cope with the complexity of sustainability challenges in a change perspective. Navigating within different theoretical frameworks the course provides analytical concepts and perspectives for understanding cities and sustainability. We profile and elaborate on the specific sustainability challenges that face cities in relation to energy, transport & health, waste and water consumption. This includes a quantification of the size of these problems, the role of planning in changing unsustainable socio-technical development paths, climate change adaptation, etc. The topics may include: resources, climate change, growth, demography, biodiversity, environmental problems and health.

Theories of Science and Research Designs (5 ECTS)

The course gives you an understanding of the different theories of science, and how they are connected to choices of research design. It addresses how we can understand the ‘processes of knowledge generation and methods’ that characterizes engineers in their work practices as ‘ sustainable engineers’. We ask questions like do engineers work as applied scientists and use scientific knowledge generated by a ’superior’ and rational scientific method’? It will make you capable of assessing and communicating choice of and background for research design. The course prepares students to become engineers that work with ‘knowledge generation’ in their projects, their thesis, as well as in their professional life as engineers.

Each project group chooses a topic for its semester report within the theme of the semester. The topic can be primarily theoretical or empirical and usually takes its point of departure in a specific policy, organisation, or an environmental problem.

Semester 2

Sustainable cities from an institutional and societal perspective

Each project group chooses a topic for their semester report within the theme of the semester. The topic can be primarily theoretical or empirical, and usually takes its point of departure in a specific policy, institution, or an environmental problem. The 2nd semester is focused on developing knowledge and competences aimed at developing urban strategies that have a transformative effect on sustainable development of society.

Courses at 2nd semester:

Politics, planning and governance (5 ECTS)

The course is focused on power, politics and policies as well as stakeholders, institutions and discourses in relation to decision-making processes based on international and national research. The lectures will be based on current research and aim at critical reflections on planning and decision-making processes. It provides an important theoretical basis for comprehending the close linkages that exists between planning, policy‐making and governance in practice. This course explores the complex context and practicalities of city planning with special emphasis on the challenge of making cities more sustainable.

systems and structures of the city (5 ECTS)

The course aims at looking closer at some of the systems that make up a city and how we can work with these in a sustainable way. We will teach the students about some of the existing systems and structures which are necessary within a city. The key focus will be on different systems such as energy, buildings, water, waste, and transport. The course will also examine the type of services that these systems provide. There is also a strong emphasis on how the different systems and structures can co-exist to create a sustainable city.

Economic, social and environmental impact assessment (5 ECTS)

The course is focussed on assessing the sustainability of different solutions for handling the challenges in cities. This course will provide students with a basic understanding of the key tools and techniques used globally to analyse economic, social and environmental dimensions of planning and sustainability. The topics may include: Feasibility studies, risk assessment, future studies, environmental impact assessment and strategic impact assessment.

Semester 3

Professional development

Internship, study abroad or “prolonged project period”

This semester will provide the student with the option of applying the theoretical and methodological knowledge gained during the 1st and 2nd semesters into practice in real life situations in Denmark or abroad. This could take form as an internship within for example a private consultancy firm, a public authority or a private NGO. The choice of internship is made on the basis of your interests. During the internship, you participate in the activities of an organisation and collect information for the project report. The project report is expected to have both a theoretical and empirical part relating to the actual experience of the internship.

An alternative option is to enrol at another (Danish or foreign) university in order to undertake a semester's study there.

Finally there is an option for adding the 3rd and the 4th semester into a 'prolonged project', if for instance the research question demands more time and energy for collecting data or conducting field studies.

semester 4: Master's Thesis

In the final semester the main focus is on the writing of the Master's Thesis. The students work individually or in small groups, under the guidance of supervisory staff. The Master's Thesis, being the highest level of work undertaken, should aim at synthesising theories and methods in order to perform a potential solution for real life environmental planning and management problems.

Sister Programmes

Sustainable Citites has three sister programmes, which are also hosted by the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University in Aalborg:

The bachelor's degree programme which precedes these three Master's programmes is Urban, Energy and Environmental Planning (By- Energi og Miljøplanlægning). Unlike the Master's programmes, the bachelor's programme is carried out in Danish.


Study Method at AAU - Problem Based Learning

Study Method at AAU - Problem Based Learning

The study method at AAU is called Problem Based Learning (PBL). Together with your fellow students you will work with real life problems by way of problem based project work.

learn more about Pbl at aau