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Urbanism and Transport Policy

The University has extensive expertise in the field of urban, regional and transport system development, a multidisciplinary area with well-established practice on a global scale which will be actively developing in Russia in the next few decades. This field has its own distinctive character due to interdisciplinarity and extremely close relationship between basic and applied R&D, primarily, project-based research.

The Russian market of urban studies has now entered the phase of active development. This is why specialists possessing a new set of skills, i.e. those who can grasp the complexity and multi-layered nature of the city, formulate relevant research agenda, perform comprehensive research, and search for effective solutions, are highly sought after on the labour market. Cities play an important role in Russia's federal agenda as they are now viewed as drivers of socio-economic development. However, urban development projects are still often underrated and regarded as one-dimensional projects of local importance rather than systemic solutions. At the same time, the global agenda requires a new response to the growing challenges. These go beyond urban planning, land use, and transport planning, which are still needed to study through the concepts of comfort, sustainability, functional diversity, economic framework, law, and social aspects. These new challenged include ecology (transport, the impact of an urban environment on the quality of life and longevity), digitalization of cities (which, on the one hand, has a great potential, but, on the other hand, poses serious risks in terms of privacy and security), urban health, changing mobility paradigms, dramatic shifts in zones of attraction, and multimodality.

Russian urban development projects are often characterized by an apparent lack of communication between architects, urban planners, economists, geographers, and experts in public and municipal governance charged with specific urban development issues. For instance, architects and urban planners are often responsible for making final decisions about the spatial organization of cities. At the same time, modern cities are very complex structures which require a much wider range of competencies on the part of decision-makers in other fields, including management, economics, sociology, geography, etc. 

The main challenge here is a marked lack of connection between urban planning as a practical task and academic research, which makes it impossible to properly assess the quality of spatial planning solutions. The University will seek to establish continuity between research and project work, both in terms of training new professionals and rethinking the existing practices, which will become a key task for this research direction up until 2030.

The University's ultimate strategic goal will be to instil an urban planner as a new profession in Russia and develop a set of practices related to urban management. In order to achieve this goal, the practice of managing urban territories in terms of isolated sectors and industries must be replaced with a more systematic and integrated urban development approach. The primary focus in urbanism must shift from beautification to actual urban planning based on applied, interdisciplinary and anthropocentric approach advocating research and proactive management of spatial planning in a city. 

The University's Background Expertise in this Area

The HSE Faculty of Urban and Regional Development, including its research subdivisions specializing in transport, regional planning, urban design, and prototyping is the heart of research and project work in this area. The Faculty brings together both established practitioners representing public and private companies and young professionals with recent degrees in urban planning rather than architecture. 

Being at the core of this research area, the Faculty will nonetheless work in close collaboration with other faculties and institutes with relevant expertise, thereby ensuring a truly comprehensive interdisciplinary research. The list of partner subdivisions includes the Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Computer Science, Institute for Public Administration and Governance, Institute of Education, Institute of Ecology, and Institute of Pricing and Regulation of Natural Monopolies. A special focus will be made on urban research (academic track), the advancement of education (second track), and project work (third track). As a prerequisite for effective further development in this area, the short-term objective is to ensure continuity and integration between these two tracks.

Most Important Subjects within This Research Area

Today the University has expertise in several subject areas, which will be further developed:

  • spatial analysis and spatial modelling;
  • land-use efficiency and land-use regulation;
  • new approaches to strategic and territorial planning;
  • housing policy and built-up areas development;
  • urban design and urban planning;
  • preservation and development of cultural heritage;
  • urban sociology;
  • urban ecology;
  • urban infrastructure and public utilities;
  • local community development;
  • advocacy planning;
  • urban prototyping;
  • transport planning and modelling.

A special emphasis will be made on three areas:

  • "New mobility": the study of various aspects of transport planning in modern cities in the context of changing human behaviour; development of new practices and solutions in transport planning, new technologies in the field of transportation, mobility as a way of life. Data-based research in this area will contribute to the development of a relevant regulatory framework and will help update policies and strategic documents for supervising government agencies. Thanks to the close ties between the research team of the Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy Studies and academic departments, degree programmes offered by the HSE Faculty of Urban and Regional Development can also benefit from resource-based support, along with internship opportunities and student engagement in the research process. Here, the University will rely on established partnerships (including UITP and University of Leeds);
  • "Land-Use Regulation": studies of the regulatory impact of urban zoning are critical for its effective use as a tool for attaining strategic goals related to the spatial and economic development of a city and boosting the land-use efficiency. City regulation documents require adjustments in accordance with real-life urban processes occurring in urban zones. In order to justify the feasibility of making adjustments in strategic urban documentation, consistent efforts are required, including the creation and development of R&D solutions, aggregation and analysis of urban data based on a holistic approach to changes in urban development, and integration of tools for urban data analysis and decision-making;
  • "Urban Prototyping" (Fab Lab): response to the challenges in urban development should involve new solutions for home construction, infrastructure, energy-saving and energy, generating solutions, as well as improvements related to comfort and safety of urban citizens, etc. The HSE Laboratory for Experimental Urban Design joining the international Fab Lab network will boost the University's brand visibility in this niche, as well as open doors to various collaborative projects. It also serves the HSE University's interests to test new design solutions for improving the university environment, while students can benefit from using Fab Lab as a platform for prototypes testing. 

Contributions to the Advancement of Education

The main goal for this research area over the following five years is to build an integrated educational track (spanning undergraduate level, PhD and continuing education). This arrangement ensures flexibility in building professional trajectories in the academic, project and educational work related to urban planning, regional and transport planning, and urban development management. The goal will be achieved through the development of new educational standards with new sets of competencies which will be in demand in the next ten years. 

According to the target model, all educational programmes should become a part of a separate field of study closely connected with economics and management - "Urban Planning", and subsequently "Regional Planning". The transfer of all existing programmes to the new field of study will be completed by the end of the reporting period. Related OKVED (Russian National Classifier of Types of Economic Activity) entries and professional standards will be developed and registered. Urban design and urban planning tracks will be further updated.

Continuing Professional Development/Business Education Block

A top priority is this area is to establish a framework for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers/tutors, which will become a part of the University's social function related to the professional development of academic staff working at universities located in Russian regions.

The CPD framework includes the following:

  • new module-based CPD programmes, including a series of universal modules focused on various topics (urban economy and public spaces) and instrumental professional development modules (urban data analysis, transport modelling), which can be used for setting up customized programmes tailored for the clients' needs;
  • transition to new CPD formats with a special emphasis on intensive courses (on-the-job training), project work, and the development of practical solutions during training. CPD programmes will be developed based on requests/ real cases suggested by the client, i.e. they will serve as educational and consulting products at the same time;
  • some general and instrumental courses will be offered online so that they can be more easily exported by universities located in Russian regions; the module offering in the framework of CPD programmes will be expanded.

Response to the Challenges of Socio-economic Development, Applied R&D

 To ensure an effective response to challenges in socio-economic development, the University will work in the following areas:

  • creating a monitoring system for data on urban, regional, and transport development based on statistical and spatial analysis, as well as machine learning methods. The lack of data required for decision-making and programme development currently poses a major setback for the development of urbanism; therefore, a monitoring system is critical for future success;
  • development and support of transport models of large and developing cities (including static and dynamic models); development of plug-ins and add-ons for the existing transport modelling platforms;
  • development of solutions for the HSE University's environment (including the University as a whole and its campuses, as well as other universities located in Russian regions). If this research direction is successful, the University will consider opening a development centre focused on university environment and urban environment;
  • creating an urban research school around the international journal Urban Research and Practice, as well as transforming the journal into a scientific and expert digital media which produces expert reports and forecasts on a regular basis;
  • development of forecast models for urban development in the interests of Russian regional authorities.