Exploring Urban India

To be held from 29th June to 25th July 2020

(Cancelled in 2020 due to Covid 19 related issues)

The summer course “Exploring Urban India: Sustainability Challenges” is an extension of the long running NCI programme, “Approaching Environmental Management in India” The present course plans to introduce students to the state of sustainability in contemporary urban India along with the challenges, prospects and many localised innovations towards increased sustainability.

India is one of the most rapidly urbanizing developing nations in the world with Indian cities moving towards accommodating about one-eighth the share of the urban population of the world by 2050. Urbanisation has been driven by economic growth but has largely been unplanned, and therefore, has seen multifarious challenges with regard to environmental sustainability. Increasingly various stakeholders are aware of the need for crafting an urbanization trajectory that is sustainable for its cities. This increasing awareness is coupled with the push towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This course will specifically look at the issue of urban sustainability through the themes of city governance, urban planning, provision of basic services, the use of technology and innovation, and urban activism among others.

This course is organized at the Centre for Research in Urban Affairs at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) in Bangalore, India.


The course covers the following themes:

  1. Introduction to Cities
  • Cities: the Urban prospects
  • Cities: cultural and social transformation, social stratification
  • Urban research methods
  • Urban theory and history
  • Concepts and definitions of Cities – Census of India – (Typology of Cities), Mega Cities – Metro Cities – Smart Cities
  • Colonisation  – City as Trade Centres during Colonisation – Cities during Industrialisation and Globalisation
  • Cities as educational centres
  • Rural-Urban Linkages (peri-urban)
  1. Urban Planning and City Governance in India
  • Understanding urban systems – Institutions in Urban Planning
  • City Planning – Legal Dimensions
  • Development of Cities under Various Plans
  • Programmes and Schemes – A critical review
  • Smart City Initiative in India – Perspectives
  • Urban forms – spatial patterns, land uses and different levels of residential density, Gated communities, slums and squatters
  • Urban poverty and vulnerabilities – measurement issues
  • City specific challenges: Rising of Informal Sector, Negotiating Public Spaces
  • Law, order and conflicts
  • Urban Policies and Implications
  1. Providing Basic Services in Cities: Challenges and Implications
  • Water resources management
  • Solid Waste Management
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Pollution
  1. Technology Boom and City Impacts
  • IT/BT
  • E-Governance in India
  • Smart Technological Interventions/ Mobile Governance
  • Health Up-gradation using technology
  • Crime Prevention
  • Platform Economies
  1. City Networks as Tools for Sustainability and Improving Governance
  • Making cities more sustainable
  • Urban innovation: community based organizations and civil society
  • Environmental Activism
  • Urban Agriculture


This course draws content from a variety of sources so as to elucidate comprehensive responses within the above mentioned themes. This will be primarily achieved through lectures from specialists in the field, specific reading material, and field visits so as to make coverage of the topics holistic. The aim of the field visits would be to give the students firsthand knowledge of the topics covered in the classroom and also to interact with various stakeholders that are part of the larger environmental concerns being discussed.

Field Work

This specific course is very field work intensive. Students are taken to field trips in both the city and the countryside where they get to see concepts they are being introduced to in lectures, working in practice.

Tentatively for 2019 the following field visits are being considered:

  1. A walk around a ward at Bengaluru (A Ward is an administrative boundary of an urban area). Here students can see the residential areas, interact with people including residents, municipal workers, small business owners, etc., see a public park, visit a slum, watch the rituals performed in a temple, witness Peepal tree worship – part of the cultural tradition, visit a public school, a public health centre, understand how water supply works, get an idea of how solid waste/e-waste, biomedical waste, sewage is managed, etc.
  2. Walking tours around the city including heritage walks to Balepete – Binnypete
  3. Visit to Green Buildings – Green Buildings are eco friendly buildings. Students will be able to interact with experts at the Green building Mr. Vishwanath, Mrs. Chitra Vishwanath and their team at their residence/ office who have designed the spaces meticulously to make it nature friendly. It is a living example of how they have evolved the efficiency standards and harvested solar energy, water, & materials reducing building impacts on human health & the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, & the complete building life cycle.
  4. Visit to a Market (Vijayanagar) place – A visit to a typical urban market will help students get an experience of how the local markets function and appear, and provide a glimpse of how negotiating public spaces is a matter of concern in shrinking urban spaces.
  5. Visit to Sukrishi Organic Farm and a village closeby–Sukrishi Farm in Nelamangala is spread across 40 acres of serene landscapes, a natural habitat for birds and animals with variety of trees, crops and herbs. Food grown in this farm are grown organically and served in their traditional restaurant that serves authentic Indian cuisine.  Students will also visit a village located close to the farm.Students will get to meet a green entrepreneur Mr. Jayaram who runs a restaurant ‘The Greenpath’ which serves organic food and millets besides promoting natural and simple living through various products in his organic stores.
  6. Visit to Terrace Gardens–Students will be visiting some of the terrace gardens that have become popular with the initiative taken by Dr. B.N. Vishwanath, President of Garden City Farmers. Terrace gardens have helped the environment and feed the family with the best organic produce, besides making use of wasted spaces of building roof tops and not adding to the burden of solid waste.
  7. Interaction with a Civil Society Group that rehabilitated a local lake– Students will be able to discuss with the civil society organization representatives about the problems encountered, challenges, constraints and the processes by which they were able to come together and organize themselves to achieve their goal in improving the quality of the lake.
  8. Visit to Mysore


The cost of the summer course is 110000 INR (currency converter). The amount covers all local costs, including the course fee, board and lodging at the Guest House, basic course material, shorter excursions, and the use of medical facilities and the library at ISEC. The cost does not include expenses for travels to and from Bangalore, visa fees, or medical and travel insurance, for which the students need to pay by themselves


  • Students apply to the summer course at ISEC by submitting an application to the International office at their university. The application should include the following documents:
    • A letter providing information about previous university studies, expectations and motivations for attending the course, as well as contact information.
    • A certificate of previous studies and a proof of the current registration at the university (a copy of the student card or any other documentation).
    • A CV or other related material to support the application.The admission procedure is conducted by nomination, i.e. after the International offices have received and reviewed the applications they will nominate students qualified for the summer course to the Nordic Centre in India (NCI). Based on the nominations, the NCI suggests students to be admitted and assists them further with the formal admission procedure. The final selection of students is made by ISEC. In case the number of nominees exceeds the maximum number of students who can participate in the course, the NCI and ISEC select students based on their qualifications and university affiliation. The students admitted to the course will be given a letter of admission from ISEC and can apply for study visa through the Indian embassy in their home country.

Course Description and Material

  • Course name: Exploring Urban India: Sustainability Challenges
  • Educational institution: Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, India
  • Course credits: 7,5/10 ECTS
  • Language of instructions: English
  • Study period: 29th June to 25th July 2020
  • Rate of studies: Full time
  • Maximum number of students: 25
  • Admission: Master level course that requires 2 years of college or university studies with minimum grades equivalent to 3.0 GPA on a 4-point scale or grade C according to ECTS.


  • The course has three educational components:
    • Lectures: Three hour lectures in the morning five days a week. On demand a few additional lectures may be organized on topics of interest for students.
    • Field visits: There will be four to five field visits in the weekends or in the afternoon sessions during the first three weeks.
    • Student seminar presentations: 4 to 5 afternoon sessions during the fourth week.The teachers of the course are researchers from ISEC and invited lecturers from other prominent Indian research institutions and universities alongside practitioners in the field both governmental and non governmental.


Upon successful completion of the summer course, the students receive a certificate from the Nordic Centre in India that can award them 7.5 ECTS at their respective home university. For students who wish pursue 10 ECTS it is also possible to do additional assignments during the same period of time. Since the course is designed to suit students from Nordic universities with European and national credit systems, students are requested to consult the International offices for information about how to translate and register the course credits at their home university.
International Grade Converter online
European Grade Converter online

Practical Information

Students can find practical information for the programme here and also, here.

The course information for 2019 Environment programme can be found here: Exploring Environmental sustainbility in India 2019

Coordinator at ISEC

Dr. S. Manasi and Dr. Chanamma
E-mail: manasi@isec.ac.in
Email: chanamma@isec.ac.in
Address: Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Nagarabhavi, 560 072 Bangalore, India.

Coordinator at Nordic Centre in India

Christabel Royan
Email: christabel.royan@nordiccentreindia.com
Address: B2, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi 110 013, India
Phone: +91-9985146729