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Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Future Cities

Future Cities is situated within the rich disciplinary context of School of Natural and Built Environment as a forum for wide ranging, leading edge design research. This develops, critiques and communicates ideas of place, environment, culture, technology and sustainability to define the limits of contemporary and future urban space.

The city has a 6000 year history and by 2050 68% of the world’s population will be urban. Challenges facing the future city demand enquiry, analysis and new insights developed through innovative inter-disciplinary and multi-partner design research, tested through impactful applied projects. Future Cities engages scholarship and practice from diverse backgrounds to consider aesthetics, spatial organisation and operation, sustainability, infrastructures, governance, the value of place and how we live, as the context for new conceptions of the urban. This will explore, define and design the nature of the 21st century city, acknowledging the necessity to reimagine the idea of the city within a digitally infused and spatially attenuated age with significant environmental challenges.

Future Cities is designed to provide a dynamic, research driven testbed, connecting wide ranging expertise, research and practice at global, national and local scales. The course will identify, research, develop and communicate testable design-based responses to key societal challenges. Future Cities extends and connects practice and theory through ground breaking projects, applied work, research and pilot studies.


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Focus

Tom Jefferies is Professor of Future Cities in the School of Natural and Built Environment, a prize-winning architect and urban designer. Prior to joining Queen’s University Belfast Tom was Head of the Manchester School of Architecture, and Birmingham School of Architecture. He has taught, lectured and examined internationally. Tom’s research investigates relationships between culture, space, landscape process to propose new forms of contemporary urbanism. Expertise in architecture, urban design, landscape, master planning and design codes, architectural history, theory and context, sustainability and heritage is a basis for developing symbiotic relationships between research and inter-disciplinary practice.


Tom has significant experience in running exploratory design-based work to generate new understanding of lived space. This acknowledges the underpinning importance of technologies (and the similarities we can observe in these across diverse regions and places), whilst critically addressing the importance of culturally generated ways of using and applying and embodying these technologies.


Current work explores complex issues of dispersed and distributed urbanisms in low density areas and dynamic territorial contexts. This explores case studies in the UK/Republic of Ireland Border, Scottish Highlands and Cornwall to propose new globally applicable models of urban operation and architectural spatial types. The importance of built and cultural heritage as concrete manifestations of collective identity can be seen as being challenged by the ephemeral and enveloping quality of the digital world. Challenging this assumption, the work undertaken visualises the interplay between Smart and traditional space and built form to propose testable models for future development and implementation of people centred space as a central theme.


Collaborative partners have included Satellite Applications Catapult, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, NHS Highlands, and Cornwall and Scilly Isles Local Enterprise Partnership, and the Irish Central Border Area network. I was principal investigator for Manchester Metropolitan University in CityVerve, the £10M SMART city/internet of things demonstrator project led by Manchester City Council and Cisco.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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