Original Link :

https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/profiles/student-spotlight-swati-janu

MSc in Sustainable Urban Development

Please tell us what you do?

‘I am the Senior Designer at mHS CITY LABS, a social enterprise based in Delhi where I have been working since 2012. We are an inter-disciplinary team of designers, economists and sociologists working towards providing construction expertise to low income communities living in the dense informal settlements in Indian cities.

What did you study?

I did my B.Arch from School of Planning and Architecture followed by a Part-Time MSc from University of Oxford (Sustainable Urban Development).

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

I came to know about the Sustainable Urban Development course through the Prince’s Foundation and I found its inter-disciplinary nature appealing. A look at the course curriculum showed that there was a specific focus on the global South which most international courses fail to include. The part-time nature of the course enabled me to continue my work in India while offering the opportunity to expose myself to diverse critical themes with each module.

What do you like about your work?

As a designer, I was not well versed with fields such as that of Economics but the module ‘Financing Sustainability’ dedicated to that helped me imbibe new facets of urbanism that I had not considered before. From critiquing the Sharing economy to understanding the implications of Digital economy in the Indian context, applying these perspectives to my work has been critical for me.

Can you tell us a bit about the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development?

The rigorous essay writing following each module has been a great learning experience for me. The exposure to academic theories and international issues ranging from the politics of climate change to urban informality has enabled me to take up further research projects since the completion of the course. Each module generated a new, engaging discourse and the part-time nature allowed me to assimilate the insights gained each time, directly influencing my practical understanding in the field as well. With ‘Smart cities’ being a current debate in India, concepts introduced in the module on ‘Future Cities’ have been particularly relevant to my current work.

While continuing my work at mHS CITY LAB in urban informality and community engagement, my approach has definitely been more diverse since the course – through the inter-disciplinary mediums of public art, academic research and practice in the field. The rigorous essay writing developed over the duration of the course has helped me greatly in the academic blogging required as a Research Fellow at the Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi this year. I have also been able to take my dissertation on migration forward through a recent art residency ‘Coriolis Effects: Migration and Memory’ at the Khoj International Artists’ Association, Delhi which has been rooted in ethnographic research, similar to the process I had undertaken for the dissertation.

The 2017-19 MSc Programme Scholarship enabled me to attend the uniquely tailored course with peers from diverse backgrounds most of who I am still in touch with. It exposed me to critical theoretical concepts of urbanism while inculcating the habit of rigorous academic writing which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Its inter-disciplinary has encouraged a further diversification of my approach to my ongoing work in urban informality, through the mediums of public art, practice in the field and ethnographic research.

Advice to students?

I would say that everyone takes something different from the course depending on what interests you, considering its varied content and flexible schedule. So, think about what you want from the course by the time you finish it and be prepared to design your own experience through its duration. The part-time nature of the course is also an important consideration in deciding on the relevance of the course for you.’

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