Global Course

University of Groningen
University of Tokyo
Newcastle University
University of Washington, Seattle
Renmin University of China

Introduction & Course Manual

We are delighted to welcome you to the ‘Global Course on Institutional Design and Spatial Planning’. Whether you are a student from Beijing, Tokyo, Seattle, Newcastle or Groningen you are in for a treat!

Around the globe

This will be the first edition of the Global Course held simultaneously at various universities around the globe. It results from a joint effort from all the partners to support students from different participating institutions working together in groups. Providing a diverse and intellectually stimulating (virtual) classroom is one of the main goals we hope to accomplish from the Global Course. The course will provide an international-comparative perspective on Institutional Design for Spatial Planning, from both a theoretical and practice-oriented perspective. The course introduces Institutional Design, the underlying theories, concepts, and frameworks, spanning from:

  1. micro- to macro-scale,
  2. past to the future,
  3. generic to specific, and
  4. material, organizational, and institutional level.

Each University represents a specific institutional background, and therefore will provide an overview of its country practice specificities. Against the background of spatial planning and spatial interventions, two narratives will be presented in the course namely, one focusing on the theoretical discourses on the Institutional Design framework and another about the international comparison of Institutional Design practices.

Theoretical narrative

The theoretical narrative is about the nature of institutions, which will be discussed from a political science, sociology, geography and spatial planning point of view. In this course, we define institutions in the broadest sense: they are sets of legal rules, policies, and normalized sets of behavior. These institutions are not neutral. They are the result of decision-making processes, democratic procedures, collective behavior and power struggles between public and private bodies, official and unofficial, and institutional and individual actors. Therefore they generate outcomes that are relevant and purposeful to those who have established or uphold these institutional frameworks. Furthermore, institutions are influenced by history, and loaded with ideological notions and concepts. During the course, concepts like path dependency, political economy, governmentality, equity and social justice, and ideology will be discussed.

Practice-oriented narrative

In the practice-oriented narrative the lecturers provide examples from their local context, and explain how their spatial planning system is established. The main aim is to establish a basis for international comparison on Institutional Design while positioning practices in the so called ‘nine cells model’ (see course literature). Students will be challenged to think about questions such as: What is ultimately the goal of spatial planning and spatial interventions? How is the public domain defined in their national context? Under influence of which ideologies has the planning system shifted over time? Of course, we will take a look at the outcomes of various planning regimes in terms of the geographical location of various functions and social groups, public and private profits and losses, citizen participation and well-being.


Altogether, this course aims to create awareness among planning students that spatial interventions are rooted in institutional settings, and institutional changes might have spatial outcomes as well. 

It will be our pleasure to help you along the course and wish you success!

Download Course Manual

In the Course Manual you will find all the information needed on the following topics: 

Learning goals, work forms, evaluation, assignment, peer reviews, lectures, mandatory readings, evaluation criteria and timetable.