About the Urban Initiative

The Urban Initiative operates as a virtual centre bringing together researchers from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the areas of human (particularly urban and economic) and physical geography, urban planning, environmental and health sciences. 

The Initiative also encompasses undergraduates, postgraduates, alumni and stakeholders interested in the urban, and encourages collaboration across the University and beyond. 

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences has considerable expertise in urban research both in the Global North and South spanning across physical environments, social interactions and practices, policy directions and future prospects. Launched in September 2017, the initiative builds on this expertise. Urban research in the School spans a range of topics relating to health and environmental changes, risks and resilience (from flooding to volcanic hazards), liveability, biodiversity and greening, as well as urban planning, regeneration and community engagement, amongst many others. 

The Initiative addresses three core areas: research, teaching and influence.


The aim of the Urban Initiative is to generate original and transformative research as well as creative thinking based on interdisciplinary collaborations amongst researchers interested in the various aspects of urban environments and systems.

The Urban Initiative produces world-leading research and promotes partnership with international universities, funding bodies and other private and public organisations. The Initiative is committed to connecting with international networks and developing new partnerships, especially in countries such as Brazil, India, China, Australia, Mexico. A system of affiliates is in place, and ‘Satellite’ Urban Labs will be created outside of the UK to foster research links. 

Working closely with The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), the Initiative is bringing complementary insights into the fields of urban greening, sustainable food and urban health. This will optimise take-up of opportunities arising from Birmingham being the first Biophilic City in the UK. 

Find out more about our research


The Urban Initiative aims to make the School's urban research strength a significant feature of our teaching offer.

At postgraduate level this includes the RTPI-accredited MSc in Urban and Regional Planning, our PhD programmes, the MSc Environmental Health and the MSc Air Pollution Management and Control, which are intrinsically connected to the urban environment and wider environmental sciences. At undergraduate level we offer a Geography and Urban and Regional Planning BSc degree as well as urban modules on our Geography and Environmental Science programmes. 

View programmes with an 'urban' component


The School has a long track of local civic engagement in Birmingham and has demonstrated its ability to influence local policy. The Urban Initiative, with its world-leading urban expertise and strong civic engagement, is a key ‘regional connector and catalyst’ within Birmingham and the West Midlands. It aims to play a central role in capitalising on existing research and education strengths to foster new forms of local, national and international engagement.

The ambition of the Urban Initiative is to leverage the range of civic engagement activities already taking place in the School, to make the University of Birmingham's urban research more visible to a wider range of international communities. It will enhance its national and international visibility by creating new avenues of influence and impact supported by the development of satellite-labs, especially in the Global South. Additionally, it will foster existing links with industries and create new ones.