Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

I have been working in advisory and research roles in an urban development sector of India. Whilst working professionally, I have been on a pursuit to understand cities from approaches other than the conventional planning, management and government disciplines, which I have encountered in my work thus far. I was also looking for a discipline that would provide me with a perspective on local development dynamics of small cities, especially by highlighting a functional role of all the local actors and institutions. For this pursuit, I was not looking for a purely academic course but a discipline that was driven by practice. This pursuit led me to this course as it is academic at its core, but has been built through the Place Management practice.

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What did you study?

I did my B.A. (Economics) from Delhi University and Masters in Public Policy from National University of Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy).

This is my second master’s degree, MSc in Place Management and Leadership from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Please tell us about the course

This is quite different from both my previous postgraduate and undergraduate degrees. Since I am doing this course after almost a decade of working, the experience is very different and new. I can relate a lot more with the course and its content on the issues of Place Management, partnerships, governance, place based actors/institutions with counterparts I have experienced in my work. I am also able to see an applied version of a lot of concepts that I studied in both my previous Economics and Public Policy degrees.

I have enjoyed this course and the classes have been wonderful. The course provided me with a lot of new insights and frameworks on management and leadership issues at a place level. I spend about 14 hours a week on the course and more when it is needed. Since the course is practice oriented and its content ties in closely with my work, I feel that I am working on my course all the time.

Since it is a part-time, distance-learning course, the weekly timetable involves prescribed readings, online discussions and assignments. Once every four months, there is a residency in Manchester, which is full-time. The classes involve discussions, presentations, field visits, meeting and seminars with place stakeholders such as municipalities, civic agencies, Business Improvement Districts and others.

Before I applied, I spoke in depth over Skype with Professor Cathy Parker to understand the offerings of the course and to explain what I was looking for. The high profile of the Institute of Place Management (IPM), uniqueness of the course as well as reputed stature of academics such as Professor Parker did help and shape my decision to apply for the course. There is a constantly turning feedback loop of theory and practice as the course staff also apply the theory in practice and vice versa. It has helped in enriching the understanding of how places function and developing management and leadership approaches to shape them better.

I am a member of the IPM. I have gotten access to a lot of resources, frameworks and knowledge through the membership. I have also been able to connect with and understand the work of other members and its partner agencies such as Association of Town & City Management.

What are your future plans?

I am the co-founder of an indigenous non-partisan organisation called Nagrika (literal meaning citizen). We are working specifically on the issues of small cities, currently working on small cities in India. For these cities, we are building solutions for local development, which are informed by local context, knowledge and stakeholders. The course fits well with my work since it has a lot of emphasis on place based management, leadership, governance and partnerships.

When I finish the course, I plan to continue building my organisation and while doing that, I hope to draw on from the principles and approaches that I gain from the course. I intend to continue my relationship with the IPM, Place Management Faculty and the Business School after I finish the course.

I would recommend the course and the university. My experience in terms of overall academic training, knowledge imparted through the staff, the material provided by them and linkage with real life Place Management examples has expanded my practitioner’s’ view. Also, Manchester is a great city to study the course. It is considered as the genesis of the discipline of Place Management, which was built upon the foundations of various town centre management schemes.