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School of Environment, Education and Development

Our urban planet:
Introducing the Manchester
Urban Institute (MUI)

Cityscape of Manchester at night

A culmination of more than four decades of impressive work at the University, the Manchester Urban Institute (MUI) launched in February 2017, and has hit the ground running with an impressive portfolio of research projects set to transform the landscape of urban studies.

It brings together a number of smaller research centres and groups, as well as individuals from across the University, working collaboratively to create one powerful and effective institute for change.

The MUI prides itself on its multidisciplinary approach, bringing together people and their ideas from across the arts and humanities, business, engineering, medical science and the social sciences to better understand the global urban condition.

Professor Kevin Ward, Director of the MUI, describes the advantages it brings: "The new Institute provides a simplified representation of what we do and why we do it, and clarifies the challenges we face, highlighting just how well placed we are to make an intellectual and political impact," he says.

Detail of Manchester skyline

The work of the Institute is underpinned by the significance of cities, and understanding that how we work with cities will not only affect the development of the entire world, but also how society will change in the coming years.

Professor James Evans, who leads the Institute’s Smart and Sustainable Cities research theme, describes how cities can help address global challenges: "The future of the planet is urban," he says.

"Over the next few decades, more people will be living in cities, more people will be living in larger cities, and the lives of more people will be being affected by what happens in cities."

Professor Ward reinforces this point about the importance of cities. "Think of any major challenge the planet faces – climate change, energy use, housing supply, inequalities, infrastructure, political participation, transport," he adds.

"Cities are part of the problem, but they also hold to key to unlocking potential solutions."

The Institute is quickly positioning itself as an academically leading global location for urban studies, generating world-class research into the most important issues facing our societies, and training the next generation of leading urban activists, decision makers, researchers and scholars. But what sets it apart is its aspiration to achieve high levels of engagement with non-academic stakeholders and to have a tangible impact not only within the academic world, but out in the real world, changing lives for the better.

Professor Cecilia Wong, who directs the Institute’s Spatial Policy and Analysis Laboratory, explains: "We work with external stakeholders in various ways, from involving them with the design of projects, to joint PhD student supervision.

"Members of the team sit on the boards of various non-academic agencies, and we also have a regional policy board that includes non-academic stakeholders, which acts as a sounding board for our various strategies."

"Think of any major challenge the planet faces – climate change, energy use, housing supply, inequalities, infrastructure, political participation, transport – cities are part of the problem, but they also hold to key to unlocking potential solutions."

Professor Kevin Ward / Director, Manchester Urban Institute (MUI)

The MUI seeks to address global inequalities through supporting cities to become fairer and more inclusive, and making them environmentally and socially sustainable, now and in the future. Its research is already making its mark on the future of our cities and our global community.

Professor Ward is looking forward the next exciting phase. "We now plan to move from aggregation to integration – exploring not only what we might deliver intellectually, but how we will convert that into maximising engagement and policy impact," he adds.

"Cities are on the political agendas of governments around the world, who have a real appetite for research into the challenges many of them are facing.

"At the same time, the field of urban studies is becoming more diverse and heterogeneous - so, it’s a really exciting time, both intellectually and in terms of the potential to make a difference."

Read more about the MUI.

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