Economics of Urbanization

VU Amsterdam Summer School | Course On Campus

NOTE: The course for summer 2021 has unfortunately been cancelled due to the insecurity of covid-19. Please send us an email if you wish to be informed about the course for summer 2022.

More than half the world's population now live in cities. In just a few decades from now, the population of urban areas will exceed the entire global population today. Ongoing urbanization presents opportunities and challenges that are of great interest to policy-makers and researchers.

Session 12022 (Course has been cancelled for summer 2021)
Course levelAdvanced Bachelor/Master, open to PhD staff and professionals
Co-ordinating lecturers                
Prof. Dr. Henri de Groot
Other lecturersStuart Donovan
Forms of tuitionLectures, excursions, discussions, online learning
Forms of assessment•  Paper [70%]
•  Presentation [20%]
•  Participation [10%]
Credits3 ECTS
Contact hours45 hours
Tuition fee€850-€1150, depending on your situation. Read more about our fees.
Accommodation and social programme
How to apply
Application for summer 2022 will open in December 2021
We welcome students from a wide variety of disciplines, including but not limited to: Economics, geography, political science, engineering, mathematics, data science, business, operations research, policy, planning, and psychology. The course is meant for advanced bachelor or master students but if you are a beginner bachelor's student with the right motivation you are also welcome to join, please send us an email so we can check your eligibility in that case. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know.

In this course, you will be introduced to the economic forces that underpin urbanization and shape metropolitan areas. Along the way, you will be equipped with knowledge and skills that help answer questions such as: Why are firms and people moving to cities? How do we measure the performance of urban areas? What factors explain why some cities thrive, while others struggle? What can policy-makers do to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of their cities? To understand these topics, students will participate in lectures, self-directed work, and several field visits. 

From humble beginnings as a bridge over the river Amstel, Amsterdam rose to prominence during the 17th century as a center of international trade. Today, Amsterdam is part of a large and prosperous metropolitan region at the heart of Europe, providing a unique base from which students can learn about cities. The Economics of Urbanization is delivered by the Department of Spatial Economics at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, which is home to approximately 60 staff actively engaged in multi-disciplinary research and policy development. Publications by the Department’s staff are internationally recognised, ranking in the top 5% of institutions worldwide in relevant economic disciplines. Numerous staff also take on prominent advisory roles for government and media institutions. 

1.  To obtain a solid understanding of the economic mechanisms that drive urbanization, as well as those that determine why some cities are successful and why some are not. 
2.  To obtain a clear understanding of policy challenges that metropolitan areas face, and the pros and cons of the instruments that can be used to tackle these challenges. 
3.  To develop experience in conducting and presenting applied research, including valuation methodologies used in benefit-cost analysis. 

  • Amsterdam Zuidas Tour, in which students will learn about the history and future of one of the fastest growing urban centres in Europe.  
  • One additional excursion to be determined 
These excursions are depending on the circumstances and if the situation allows.

Henri L. F. de Groot is professor in Regional Economic Dynamics at the Department of Spatial Economics, where he is heavily involved in the BSc programme in Economics and the MSc Programme in ‘Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics’. Henri is widely-published in international peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes; his current research deals with urban and regional economics; agglomeration and trade; energy and environmental economics; technology adoption; and meta-analysis. Henri has been involved in various research projects for the World Bank and the European Commission.

Stuart Donovan holds masters degrees in engineering and economics and is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of Spatial Economics, where he is being supervised by Henri L. F. de Groot. In his PhD, Stuart is researching agglomeration economies; location choice; and regional economic performance. Stuart’s research is informed by 12-years’ experience working as a consultant in the transport industry in New Zealand and Australia, where he was involved in economic appraisal, policy development, and transport planning, allowing him to link academic research with professional practice.

Do you want to make the most out of your summer? You can combine this course with the following courses in session 2: