My name is Stephanie Richards and coming from the UK where the Netherlands, in particular Amsterdam, is heralded as a planning ideal, every day is like ‘living the case study’. But what I came to realise is that this ideal is fiction; every place suffers from its own successes and challenges, but the process of learning what works, what doesn’t and why, is as valuable an asset. UvA provides the space to develop this realistic, though still always a little ideologically driven, perspective of planning in the real world. Read what Stephanie tells about Urban and Regional Planning.
Diversity in people, in content and in opportunities.The diversity of people gives a range of experiences that always ensure a keen debate or a new perspective. With a pretty even split between international and Dutch students, an age range spanning 21 to 37 and those fresh faced from their bachelors alongside seasoned professionals, together we represent an incredible library of knowledge. With only 44 students, we have established a real community, with everyone participating on an even footing.
The diversity of content gives us gives us the tools to understand the urban system and to put it all together ourselves. With topics grounded in their societal relevance, ranging from sustainable development to neoliberal real estate markets there is something for everyone. Project work for each paper also lets you delve deeper, with the flexibility in your research topic allowing you to specialise, or like I did test out queries I’d developed along the way. This opportunity for creativity provided me with the platform to test out different locations, methodologies and theoretical frameworks, not only giving me a better appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses but also inspiring more informed future research.
And finally is diversity in opportunities. Whilst the course does not focus on technical skills, engagement with practice is a principal element. Outside of lectures and seminars the research projects require working with real data and real people, something that’s often lost in academic study but remains critically important in reality. Perhaps the perfect example of this is the intensive Innovative International Planning Practices course which this year focused on the concept of Urban Justice. With leaders in the field flown in from the UK and US, I got to meet some of my planning ‘idols’ alongside developing a policy advice presented on the final day to the municipality which they’re now considering using in their area action plan!
For me, the course provides a bridge between academia and practice, developing skills in critical thinking, communication and pragmatism, all taken for granted until you get challenged on them and all crucial tools when entering the world of work. My parting words: what makes you different makes you stronger, everyone has something to give and everyone has something to gain.