Who we are

The GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) is an international consortium of nine research partners aiming to strengthen capacity to address urban, health and education challenges in neighbourhoods across fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia. Our partners include: University of Glasgow, Human Sciences Research Council, Ifakara Health Institute, Khulna University, Nankai University, National Institute of Urban Affairs, University of Rwanda, University of the Philippines Diliman, University of the Witwatersrand.

SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

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What we do

SHLC aims to strengthen research capacity to increase our understanding, and ability to address, urban, health and education challenges in neighbourhoods across fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia.

Through a series of training workshops, knowledge exchange events, a visiting research fellow programme, a mentoring scheme and small grants fund, we hope to create a strong and durable network of urban researchers specialised in neighbourhood analysis of rapidly urbanising cities.

Our international team of researchers are conducting a comparative study of urbanisation and differentiation of neighbourhoods in 14 different cities in both emerging economies and relatively poor countries in Africa and Asia, including: Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.

Our study has four distinct, yet complementary, steps:


A review of key national urban, health and education national policies over the past 20 years, and a city profile for each of our 14 case study cities, examines the relationship between urbanisation, migration, economic development, health and social sustainability.  This initial stage of research will establish how the development and planning process has operated and how it has influenced changes in the city.


If you look at the city as a whole, you will miss the full picture. The next stage of our research focuses on the neighbourhoods inside cities to explore how cities are changing bit by bit. Drawing on a mixture of remote sensing images, digital mapping and a database of neighbourhood characteristics, our research will identify how the spatial structure of cities is changing in response to increasing migration and urban expansion.


It is one thing identifying different neighbourhoods, but our understanding of the city will be fuller if we know who lives there and how they live. The next stage of our research will investigate a sample of ‘typical’ types of different neighbourhoods and through household surveys, key actor interviews and focus groups aims to understand what makes a sustainable, healthy and learning neighbourhood.


With all of this rich data – 14,000 household surveys, remote sensing images, interview data and more – the final stage of our research will compare and contrast different neighbourhoods across each of our 14 case study countries to help guide future urban planning, development and governance of fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia.

Why we do this

Rapid urbanisation and increased migration in Africa and Asia have helped drive sustainable development, and created jobs for millions who call the city their home. But fast-growing cities like Dhaka and Delhi also face growing poverty and inequality. 

For example, high-rise and high-density neighbourhoods have been constructed to accommodate a rapidly expanding population. But who is going to live there? Do they bring cars, or not? How will this affect congestion and pollution? Will there be learning opportunities nearby? How will living in high-density building impact well-being? Is the neighbourhood close to employment opportunities?

Through our international collaborative and comparative study, SHLC aims to strengthen capacity to understand and support sustainable, healthy and learning neighbourhood across fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia. Our research and capacity-strengthening activities will help support and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly

GOAL 11: