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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh Futures Institute : Edinburgh Futures Institute

Postgraduate Course: Evaluating Sustainable Lands and Cities (fusion online) (EFIE11174)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh Futures Institute CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryNowadays, lands and cities are facing unprecedented challenges to tackle climate change and promote sustainable development. In the era of information technologies, big data coming from a wide variety of sources promise to expand our understanding of urban and spatial dynamics. This course will introduce students to geographic data science approaches to evaluate lands and cities in terms of their sustainability.
Course description The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda 2030 set the objectives for more sustainable futures and highlight the need to tackle global challenges such as climate change and rising inequalities at global and local scales. The deluge of data, that is nowadays available from a wide variety of sources, offers new opportunities to evaluate lands and cities in terms of their sustainability, and has enormous potential in supporting policy makers with key evidence in their decision-making process.

This course will introduce the concept of sustainability in its complexity - encompassing the social, economic, environmental, and spatial domains - and the role of data to better understand societal and spatial dynamics. Students will also be provided with knowledge of programming for geospatial analysis and mapping in the context of evaluating sustainability in lands and cities. They will work in teams and individually, to investigate how data can underpin and support decision making for sustainable cities.

This course will require exercising critical thinking, acknowledging the challenges and limitations of working with data, and will embrace interdisciplinarity to appreciate the complex nature of sustainability. A wide spectrum of competencies and backgrounds, spanning the social, economic and environmental as well as data science, will be leveraged in this course to capitalise on data in the context of sustainability.

The course will make use of a range of digital learning environments, enabling students to build knowledge across discussion forums, livestreamed sessions, and other collaborative networked spaces.

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) - Online Fusion Course Delivery Information:

The Edinburgh Futures Institute will teach this course in a way that enables online and on-campus students to study together. This approach (our 'fusion' teaching model) offers students flexible and inclusive ways to study, and the ability to choose whether to be on-campus or online at the level of the individual course. It also opens up ways for diverse groups of students to study together regardless of geographical location. To enable this, the course will use technologies to record and live-stream student and staff participation during their teaching and learning activities. Students should note that their interactions may be recorded and live-streamed. There will, however, be options to control whether or not your video and audio are enabled.

As part of your course, you will need access to a personal computing device. Unless otherwise stated activities will be web browser based and as a minimum we recommend a device with a physical keyboard and screen that can access the internet.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 3, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Online Activities 1, Formative Assessment Hours 2, Other Study Hours 8, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 79 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Other Study: Scheduled Group-work Hours (hybrid online/on-campus) - 8
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Feedback Formative Feedback:

Data Analysis (1 hr for approx. 4 groups of 5):
Proposals of the data analysis work to be carried out in groups during the intensive phase is presented by each group on Day 1. Verbal comments from educator form the basis of the formative feedback. This will feed-forward the group analysis work during day 2 of the intensive activities to prepare the final presentation.

Essay (1hr for approx. 4 groups of 5):
Educator will provide written formative feedback on the essay plan and the final essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop and interpret metrics to evaluate sustainability in lands and cities from multiple dimensions and at different scales.
  2. Investigate and report on data leveraged from case studies using the tools of data science.
  3. Think critically about data usage in relation to sustainable environments.
  4. Collaborate effectively with others.
  5. Acquire the ability to independently develop data analysis and visualisation.
Reading List
Essential Reading:

The Dimensions of Sustainability:

UN-HABITAT - The New Urban Agenda Illustrated Handbook Chapter 1

Geospatial Analysis and Data Visualisation:

Tonny J Oyana Spatial analysis with R Chapters 1 and 4
R Notebooks provided by educator

The Role of Data to Evaluate Sustainability and its Challenges:

UN-HABITAT - The New Urban Agenda Illustrated Handbook Section 3.3

NUA Monitoring Framework and related indicators, 2020 pp. 1-18

Urban Sustainability Observatories: Leveraging Urban Experimentation for Sustainability Science and Policy accessible at

Conclusions of Sarah Williams, Data Action Using Data for Public Good, 2020 MIT

One Set of the Following Readings:

Social Dimension
Gauvin, L., Tizzoni, M., Piaggesi, S. et al. Gender gaps in urban mobility. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 7, 11 (2020).

The Atlas of Inequality Project -

Mapping Segregation: MIT's Atlas of Inequality 15min video presentation accessible at

Economic Dimension
Graham, Mark, Stefano De Sabbata, and Matthew A. Zook. "Towards a study of information geographies:(im) mutable augmentations and a mapping of the geographies of information." Geo: Geography and environment 2.1 (2015): 88-105.

Eviction Map accessible at
Peter Hepburn, Olivia Jin, Joe Fish, Emily Lemmerman, Anne Kat Alexander & Matthew Desmond, The Eviction Lab, Preliminary Analysis: Eviction Filing Patterns in 2021 accessible at

Environmental Dimension
European Environmental Agency Monitoring the circular economy accessible at
MIT Project Treepedia accessible at

Spatial Dimension
Burton E. Measuring Urban Compactness in UK Towns and Cities. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design. 2002;29(2):219-250. doi:10.1068/b2713

The Puddings, Population Density Changes accessible at

Recommended Reading:

Documentary: The Human Scale -
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research and Enquiry:
Graduates will be able to conduct independent research, think analytically and critically: developed by investigating on complex dynamics through theory and quantitative data, and evaluating information thoroughly.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy:
Graduates will be able to think creatively and engage in independent learning: developed by being challenged with complexity and incentivised in thinking outside the box.

Personal Effectiveness:
Graduates will be able to work collaboratively: developed through team working, recognising and capitalising on individuals' different thinking, working with people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Ability to develop oral and written communication of complex ideas and arguments: developed through a range of activities that involve public speaking and scientific reporting/writing.
KeywordsEFI,PG,Level 11,Sustainability,Sustainable Lands and Cities
Course organiserDr Alessia Calafiore
Course secretaryMiss Yasmine Lewis
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