23rd ASEF Summer University: Liveable Cities for a Sustainable Future - Open Call for Participation Launched

We were pleased to announce the launch the Open Call for Participants in the 23rd ASEF Summer University, Liveable Cities for a Sustainable Future.

We are pleased that SHLC is amongst the sponsors of this event, and that our colleagues in India and Bangladesh will be amongst those providing background papers.

This Open Call is open for Young Professionals and Students aged 18-30 from all 51 ASEM countries.

Find out more information:

We encourage all who read this to circulate this information widely

The application form is found here. The deadline is Wednesday, 29 September 2021, UTC 23:59

SHLC enters into co-operation with UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning

SHLC is very pleased to announce an agreement with UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) to co-operate during 2021 within their programme: Local challenges, global imperatives: Cities at the forefront to achieve Education 2030.

This programme explores the key role of cities in educational planning and management. SHLC has brought its partners and their cities in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Rwanda into the programme so that these issues can be explored in the global south. IIEP and SHLC will be collectively analysing data gathered by partners in these countries, adding a further dimension to IIEP’s excellent work, and to SHLC’s capacity strengthening activity.

Students participate in class while listing to class teacher at the Sujat Nagar urban slum school in Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 11, 2016. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The co-operation at SHLC will be managed by Yulia Nesterova and Mike Osborne, working in collaboration with the programme leads at IIEP, Candy Lugaz and Chloé Chimier. SHLC colleagues Shilpi Roy, Khulna University, Mario Delos Reyes and Mark Gamboa, Centre for Neighbourhood Studies, and Vincent Manirakiza, University of Rwanda will be leading in-country research.

From Challenge To Opportunity: Shifting Community-Based Research Online

This article was written by S. Ram Aravind and originally published by PRIA. The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across India, researchers have faced difficulties in doing research with communities. The disruption to life and livelihoods as a consequence of lockdowns and restrictions on movement has cast a cloud over our communities.

The initial tendency can be to postpone, and even resist, making connections and maintaining relationships digitally. But researchers can, and should, move out of their comfort zones of physical interactions, that have so far been the cornerstone of community-based research, and develop skills in digital (online) interactions. This comes with a new set of challenges, especially with the societal inequalities inherent in diverse cultures, but is also an opportunity to learn new skills, as Ram Aravind writes in this blog.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

The ‘unexpected’ imposition of lockdown in Delhi-NCR, following a record surge in COVID-19 related infections and deaths in India, has pushed time back on any hopes of reviving face-to-face interaction with the community, as PRIA has always done while conducting research with them. The situation was, however, different two months ago. Leading a team of community researchers and university students to explore adolescent health in informal settlements in Gurugram, I was overwhelmed and thrilled at the prospect of returning to the field after a gap of more than 12 months, since March 2020. Even as we made elaborate plans to join hands with the community to address the deficiency in health-seeking behaviour of youth in under-resourced settings, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic situation forced us to seek other ways of staying connected with communities.

The world over, the research community is confronted by calls to align their research methodology to conform to the pandemic landscape and restrictions imposed on travel and funds. As participatory, community-based researchers, our decision to transition to the world of ‘Zooms’ and ‘Teams’ seemed logical and practical, a way to restore our connections with the community and sustain our relationship with our co-researchers. If we could not be together, at least we would get to see one another.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

We decided to conduct two Focus-Group Discussions (FGDs) online, the first with mothers of those aged 10 to 19 to understand the care-giver perspective in adolescent health, and the second with adolescents to understand their perception of safety in their community. Living in the capital city (Delhi) and trying to digitally connect in an IT-enabled satellite city (Gurugram), we didn’t anticipate fully the enormity of the digital divide in India. With nearly 700 million people in India excluded from access to the World Wide Web, maintaining sustainable contact online with people living in low-income communities remains a barrier to effective community engagement. The rates of exclusion among women are even higher. Only 29% of India’s internet users are women, which stands amplified when it comes to communities like the ones we wanted to stay connected with. Most of the women who were going to participate in our FGDs are employed as domestic workers and have never owned a smartphone in their life.

“We don’t have a smartphone; how will we do this?”

“My husband has the phone; how long should we expect the sessions to continue? I can’t take the phone away from him for long.”

Even as the remarks made by women pointed to the high level of exclusion, it was also an opportunity to enable them to exercise their agency over the major global disruptor that is the internet. Most women had never contemplated owning a smartphone to maintain long-distance contact with their family back home; many did not even possess a basic mobile handset, often depending on the male members of their families, if the need arose. With adequate instructions from community facilitators and assistance from their children, the women were able to download and log in to Zoom, overcoming apprehensions of “talking to a screen”. Communities that are underserved have always shown a high ability to adapt to changing circumstances, in spite of a lack of opportunity and structural exclusion. Once online, the women seemed eager to share their experiences of how they ensure nutrition for their children.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

Over the past year, my colleagues and I have become used to facilitating Zoom interactions. Aware that online discussions are different from face-to-face workshops with the community, conducting FGDs online required us to be agile and adapt to the ‘unique’ challenges of each participant group – several participants (often up to five mothers) logging in from a single smartphone device; frequent disruptions and ‘call drops’ caused by poor internet connectivity, both in the informal settlement and in our posh, middle class colonies; background noise from bustling households and demands from younger children for their mother’s attention – all of which threatened to break the flow of discussion and prolonged the process. The virtual space is a platform of great convenience, but it is equally important to create a space of trust and privacy. Breaking the ice to get the conversation flowing, encouraging adolescents to open up while their parents hover close by, and allowing time for the more shy mothers to feel comfortable enough to speak – as facilitators we had to pay close attention to these as well, just like we would have in face-to-face community interactions.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

After conducting several online interactions, I am still not sure if online FGDs are effective, especially with under-resourced groups. Many universities in India have started replacing community visits with ‘online field work’, a term representing the post-pandemic world. By coining this term, has the academic world called it a day on traditional ethnographic field work and will the virtual space take over as the new ‘meeting’ ground?

Using digital, online means of data collection demonstrates adaptability, but trust and intimacy stands eroded if such methodological changes are routinised and normalised. Conducting community research needs to go beyond conversations over screens on smartphones.

At the end of one of our FGDs, the mothers told us they were eager to meet us in person; they wanted to learn what else they can do to meet the nutrition needs of their families within the resources they have, limited and constrained by the pandemic, and by accessing government schemes.

“Come and see us. We have more things to talk about,” one mother said, as she tapped the Zoom ‘leave meeting’ button to return to her physical world.

The project was led by Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA).

This research project ‘Healthy Cities for Adolescents: Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Aerial view of informal settlements of the

Why South Africa is the most unequal country in the world

This video was originally published by Le Monde on YouTube. The views expressed in this video are of the creator and not attributable to SHLC.

Cape Town, its sunny beaches, its elegant mountains… and its glaring inequalities. The second most populated city in South Africa is the focus of the difficulties faced by Nelson Mandela’s country.

Thirty years after the end of apartheid, which had instituted segregation between the black and white populations, statistics point to inequalities that are still almost unique in the world.

One striking element allows us to visualize them: the place of residence. While the majority of whites live near the center of the city, or in well-to-do residential suburbs, close to economic activity, blacks and “coloureds” live on the fringe. This is the crux of the inequalities that have persisted in the country for nearly 30 years.

Urban Expansion and Land Use Changes in Asia and Africa


Wang YP, Kintrea K. Urban Expansion and Land Use Changes in Asia and Africa. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321999081

Key points

Trends in urbanization and land cover changes

  • Unplanned urban sprawl was once associated mainly with the boom years of development in land-rich developed countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, but it is now occurring in cities all over the developing world.
  • In Africa and Asia, urban population growth has consumed large areas of land around major cities.

Urban expansion and informal development

  • Fast urban expansion and sprawl indeed often results in more inequality, informality, insecurity and unsustainable forms of urban community.
  • As the SHLC case cities show, alongside of new industrial developments, various types of neighbourhoods are emerging in peripheral areas of large cities, including commercially constructed housing estates of various standards, gated or semi-gated communities for the rich, tenement and high-rise apartments for the middle class and civil servants and state-supported low-income settlements.
  • However, informal settlements such as urban villages, townships, relocation settlements as well as various slum settlements are growing at a much larger scale than the various types of planned or semi-planned residential areas.

Challenges for urban planning

  • To realize the full potential of the urban transformative power and address the social and economic problems caused by urban sprawl and expansion, the international community has adopted several agreements to guide urban development, with the assumption that well-planned cities and urban extensions can curb excessive land consumption.
  • These global policies and targets are very ambitious and maybe not very realistic.

Urban slum, Delhi, India. Credit: Sistak, Flickr

Spatio-temporal Assessment of Landscape Ecological Risk and Associated Drivers: A Case Study of Delhi


Mondal B, Sharma P, Kundu D, Bansal S. Spatio-temporal Assessment of Landscape Ecological Risk and Associated Drivers: A Case Study of Delhi. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. 2021;12(1_suppl):S85-S106. doi:10.1177/09754253211007830


Urbanization is considered as the key driver for land use and land cover (LULC) changes across the globe and Delhi is no exception to this phenomenon. The population of Delhi has almost doubled from 8.4 million in 1991 to 16.3 million in 2011. Correspondingly, the built-up area has also increased from 336.82 to 598.22 km2 during 1999–2018. This urban expansion has led to emergence of serious ecological risk and fragmentation of the landscape. In this context, it is imperative to analyse the level of risks induced by such urban expansion and its underlying associations with other factors.

This article quantifies the LULC changes in Delhi during 1999–2018 using Landsat 5 (TM) and Landsat 8 (OLI) data. A spatio-temporal sprawl induced risk assessment index has been developed by combining landscape fragmentation score and land use land cover vulnerability score. The landscape fragmentation score was based on four landscape metrics, whereas the vulnerability score was computed from LULC data. The article also assesses the association between risk areas and economic activities, environmental and infrastructural amenities that are considered key drivers of urban expansion in Delhi. To estimate spatio-temporal variability between risk areas and key drivers, ordinary least square regression and geographical weighted regression (GWR) were used.

The GWR results reveal that sprawl-induced ecological risk in Delhi is strongly associated with economic activity, infrastructural accessibility and environmental amenities. This spatial empirical assessment also shows that urban growth incentives or services such as roads, metro rail, schools and hospitals can also create pressure on the landscape if local authorities arbitrarily provide these services across space without considering the associated risks.

Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.

Educational Opportunities and Disadvantages Across Neighbourhoods in Dar es Salaam, Delhi, and Dhaka

In this blog, Yulia Nesterova and Michele Schweisfurth showcase research findings exploring educational opportunities in urban neighbourhoods presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society.

We often look at cities as places of hope. They offer a promise of increased opportunities and better access to services, as well as of innovation and productivity that accelerate economic growth and eradicate poverty.

In formal education, for example, the difference between urban and rural schooling is stark: urban children’s attendance and completion rates are much higher while drop-out rates are much lower than of children in rural areas. That is one of many factors that can motivate people to migrate to urban centres to improve their life chances.

But cities are not homogenous places where everyone has similar prospects or faces similar disadvantages. They consist of diverse neighbourhoods that, as our research shows, have different resources, infrastructure, opportunities, benefits, and networks. It is these different neighbourhoods that shape what opportunities and life chances are accessible to us.

This year, our team spoke about educational opportunities across the neighbourhoods of different income of Dar es Salaam, Delhi, and Dhaka at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society.


Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.
Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.

Our key objective was to showcase to the conference delegates the importance of studying local structures and opportunities to understand how spatial inequalities play out in accessing formal education services. For each neighbourhood – ranging from ultra-poor to high income, we presented data on:

  • availability and coverage of schools – how many schools of each level and by different provider (public, private, NGO-run, or faith-based) each neighbourhood has
  • quality and availability of resources and support – such as infrastructure, equipment, teachers, and extracurricular activities
  • physical accessibility of schools – how close they are and how each it is to get from home to school (for example – the availability of transport and the quality of paths and roads)

Despite having some of the best and most renowned schools in their respective countries, these cities are extremely unequal. Our data show that as a result of this inequality, availability, accessibility, and quality of schools vary significantly across neighbourhoods. And existing infrastructure, the built environment, and local interventions in each neighbourhood sustain spatial segregation.

Ultra-poor, low, and low-income neighbourhoods struggle the most in terms of accessing all levels of state-funded education. They often depend on free of charge schools run by NGOs and religious institutions that tend to be under-resourced and have unsustainable funding. It is thus children from these neighbourhoods who miss on the benefits formal education can offer – a situation that contributes to trapping many residents in the cycle of poverty and low socio-economic conditions.

However, neighbourhoods from middle income to high income face a range of challenges, too. While children in such neighbourhoods may generally have access to better-resourced and higher achieving state schools, some of such areas have poor availability of schools, old and unsafe classrooms and buildings, and other issues. They also increasingly rely on private schools inside and outside their neighbourhoods that people living in poorer clusters cannot afford.

The presentation slides (download via link above) show some very good examples of educational inequalities in the three cities.

By focusing on such localised and nuanced data, we believe we can move away from working with very general education policies to policies that are customised to local realities and priorities to be able to achieve support Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education.

Noapara river city, Bangladesh. Credit: Jinia Nowrin

New Research Grants to Support Urban Resilience and Liveability in Bangladesh’s Coastal Cities

This news story was written by Sumaiya Shudha and Hanna Ruszczyk from the ‘Liveable Regional Cities in Bangladesh‘ project funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund The views expressed in this article are of the writers and not attributable to SHLC.

Over the last three decades Bangladesh has experienced rapid and unplanned urbanisation.

Recent collaborative research between International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) at Durham University has demonstrated a pressing need to enhance our knowledge, skills and experience of supporting urban resilience to tackle this challenge of rapid urbanisation. In response, ICCCAD and IHRR colleagues designed and organised an online short course exploring urban resilience and liveability.

Course participants included a combination of early-career professionals working on urban issues in Bangladesh, researchers and also graduate as well as senior-undergraduate students. The course covered three topics:

  1. theoretical framings of urban resilience and urban liveability;
  2. utilising interdisciplinary approaches to understand a city’s liveability and resilience; and
  3. urban resilience and vulnerability from the local perspective.

Noapara river city, Bangladesh. Credit: Jinia Nowrin
Noapara river city, Bangladesh. Credit: Jinia Nowrin

As part of this course, participants took part in a group activity and designed a small-scale project related to urban resilience and liveability in secondary coastal cities of Bangladesh. Drawing on course materials, this activity was designed to enhance the participants’ skills in developing successful project proposals.

The five teams presented their proposals to a team of judges representing ICCCAD, Durham University and the University of Glasgow. The top three proposals were awarded £1,500 funding* to carry out their project in 2021. The winning projects include:

  • Group 1: A critical Analysis of Local Governance Mechanisms for influencing Individual Level Climate Change Adaptation Decision Making: A case study for Noapara Bangladesh.
  • Group 4: Participatory resilient house design for low-income community at saline prone coastal urban regions of Bangladesh.
  • Group 5: Exploring Liveability of Seasonal Migrants in Informal Settlements

Md. Bodrud-Doza Zion, Manager in Climate Change Program at BRAC, said:

“We find this urban livability and resilience program very interesting and effective for our knowledge building. After completing our research project we hope to transform our findings into a development project for the betterment of the most vulnerable low income urban communities.”

* Funding for these small projects is jointly supported by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund and IHRR’s ‘Impact Grant’ from Durham University.

The project was led by Hanna Ruszczyk (Durham University), Istiakh Ahmed (International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Bangladesh), Alex Halligey (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa).

This research project ‘Liveable Regional Cities in Bangladesh’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Delhi street

Webinar: Uneven Impact of Covid-19 - Neighbourhood Experiences in South Africa, India and Philippines

Webinar: Uneven Impact of Covid-19 - Neighbourhood Experiences in South Africa, India and the Philippines

This webinar was hosted as part University of Glasgow’s Urban Studies Seminar Series: Urban Research and the Covid-19 Era. Please view and download the presentations via the link below.


Almost no corner of the globe has escaped the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these impacts have not been felt equally. Research has shown that our ability to respond to Covid-19 is influenced by social and economic status, suggesting that where and how we live matters. Nowhere is this more acute than cities and towns in the developing countries.

Researchers at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) are studying cities from the inside out examining the sustainability of different neighbourhoods right across the city.

In this webinar, three SHLC researchers from Cape Town, India and the Philippines will present their work investigating how Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and communities across the city. They will address the following questions:

  • What are the defining characteristics of neighbourhood distribution in the city?
  • How has Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and have these impacts aggravated pre-existing spatial disparities?
  • What actions can we take to address the different needs of urban residents in different neighbourhoods?

The presentation will be followed by question and answers.


This seminar will be chaired and introduced by Professor Keith Kintrea, Deputy Director of SHLC, University of Glasgow.

Aerial of the town of Talisay. Batangas, Philippines, Credit: Shutterstock: Michael D Edwards

Urban Sprawl and Land Value in Batangas City, Philippines


Daguio KGL, Rivera RRB, Reyes MRD, Santiago JT, Mendoza JE. Urban Sprawl and Land Value in Batangas City, Philippines. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321998023


This article, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches, illustrates that Batangas City for the period 1990–2015 was leaning towards a sprawling development. Areas where considerable sprawling has occurred were further investigated in relation to land value.

The study also revealed that there is a moderate positive relationship between sprawl and land values in the city, which meant that land values have increased in areas where considerable sprawling has occurred.