If you are currently an offer holder or are thinking of applying to LSE’s MSc City Design and Social Science, or maybe you are just curious, this post will provide some fun and important facts about this unique program in LSE.
1. Predominantly group work
The program has a major module that runs during two terms thus there is a lot of group work. This can be quite intimidating to some, but for me, it was my highlight of the program! The work produced within the group really grows into something you’re proud of. Usually, the marks achieved are higher than the other individual modules and you end up learning much more because your research skills are honed and you learn new skills from your peers that you can take away to your other courses.
2. Small class sizes, compulsory courses
The program has a strength of 15 to 25 people (16 in 2018). Additionally, the program has two compulsory courses in both terms, enabling us to have a micro-community within the School. There is constant interaction between students and the faculty, which evidently wouldn’t be possible in a class of 80, or we were placed in multiple different classes. The faculty runs a tight ship and are very invested in student welfare and the program as a whole. There are also lots of organised external meetups like pub quizzes, giving everyone quality downtime together.
Being a design-oriented program, students are allotted their own personal space in the form of a studio, which is unique to this program. The studios come equipped with computers, formal discussions tables and small informal spaces. Studio access is restricted to only students of the program. This allows for you to leave your stuff there, work independently, have a space for when you don’t want to work in the library, you can form study groups, and have lunch together – basically, you can do with it what you may.
4. Between the Department of Sociology and the Department of Geography and Environment
Though the program utilises social sciences as a base for most of its teachings, there is a design and spatial aspect to it that puts the program between the two departments. This allows for flexibility in the optional courses you can take, the direction you want to take or are coming from. Essentially you have the choice to choose how theoretically oriented or how design-based you want to be.
5. Cities Research Centre
LSE Cities is a Deutschland Bank funded research centre in LSE and many of the faculty are members of the centre, who actively do research on urban issues and methodologies. As a result, you have a direct professional link to what you learn. It is usual for 1-2 students from the program to also find part-time work within the centre. There are seminars and workshops you can attend, researchers you can meet if your interest aligns, and resources you can use. Overall, it’s quite an ideal situation for you to see your learnings play out in the real world.
6. Truly interdisciplinary
The program is completely interdisciplinary. Before coming here I thought planning was a profession for architects and urban planners. In fact even while choosing the program I didn’t understand how wide-ranging the professional backgrounds of students can be, but now I stand pleasantly surprised. I understand deeply how interdisciplinary the field of urban planning can be, which honestly, can be difficult to accept for any planner at times. People from varied backgrounds with interest in cities can pursue their interest through their own lens and their contributions are always equivalent, sometimes even more impressive than those of conventional planners. Software skills can be a good idea to learn if you’re coming in from a different background but it really is not necessary. The program has seen people from all spectrums, ranging from hotel management to journalism to graphic designer and art history majors.
7. Field Trip
The field trip is a compulsory part of the programme, it is a really fun and unique experience. Despite visiting the field trip’s destination before, I had never seen the city in this way. It was truly an eye-opening experience, and oh what fun it was. Many of my peers didn’t know about the field trip beforehand – if you want more information, you can ask about it specifically during September time. When it comes to the dreaded visa requirements, LSE helps with it in however possible but you can always do it in advance on your own like I did – but again, it’s really not necessary. The cost of the trip is already included in the programme and the assignment consists of an essay about your observations of the field trip.
8. Live studio project
The main module of the program is the studio project, which gives you the chance to work on a real-life project – where the challenges are real, and so are the people critiquing you. The project doesn’t just stay academic but touches base with reality and professional life. You have the potential to take your learnings further within the same project or even with similar projects happening elsewhere. The nature of the project is quite similar ones trending globally.
9. Lots of career events
When choosing my programme, in comparison to other universities like UCL, what sealed the deal for me was the amount of student support available at LSE. I can’t say yet how many career placement sessions will be successful for me, or even for others around me, but I can definitely say there are lots of chances for one to take. My favourite event was when alumni from our program and other similar programs came in as representatives from different companies, such as Arup.
10. Diverse student cohort
I am almost certain it’s intentionally chosen and done this way but cannot comment strongly as it gets refuted or accepted multiple times, but the program has people from absolutely different cities. Few previous year publications even had maps, in the beginning, denoting the footprint of the people in the program around the world. For me, this was a unique factor as it really made talking about cities quite fun. I learnt about many more cities that I didn’t actually pay much focus on before. I was also quite worried if its the wrong choice in the applicability for me as I was coming in from India, a developing country, but surprisingly found almost a 50-50 division readings, people and discussions when it came to developed and developing cities. The optional modules definitely added to that as some of them focused on first world context but contrastingly many others offered the chance to study the global south.