Prediction & Projection ž· Emergent Urbanisms ž· Adopted Knowledge · Knowledge Exchange

PEAK Urban is a 51-month, international, multidisciplinary programme (PI Michael Keith, University of Oxford) funded by the Research Councils UK Global Challenges Research Fund (RCUK GCRF), involving researchers at the University of Oxford, Peking University, University of Cape Town, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and EAFIT University.

The challenge

Continuing urbanisation comes, particularly across the global South, with new and intensified challenges around environmental and social sustainability. Goal 11 of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – represents the first time that cities have formally been identified as both crucibles of development challenges and the engines of development change. It nonetheless remains unclear how optimal urban outcomes are to be achieved, especially for cities where the pace of urban change is greatest, resources are most limited, the governance arrangements are complex and formal knowledge about how the city works is patchy. Yet, over the next decade or so, finding solutions to urban challenges that are most acute in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America will disproportionately determine sustainable development outcomes for the planet as a whole.

The PEAK Urban Programme

The PEAK Urban programme aims to build skilled capacity for decision making on urban futures by: i) generating new research grounded in the logic of urban complexity, and ii) fostering new leaders that draw on different disciplinary perspectives to address the challenges found in the 21st century city.

The programme’s aims will be achieved through an academic partnership that links five research intensive universities renowned for their expertise in interdisciplinary scholarship and work on the contemporary city. Researchers from various departments in the University of Oxford – Anthropology (COMPAS), the Mathematical Institute, Geography (Transport Studies Unit) and Medicine (George Institute) – will collaborate with colleagues in globally excellent research groups in Peking University (China), University of Cape Town (South Africa), Indian Institute for Human Settlements (India) and EAFIT University (Colombia).

In PEAK Urban, cities are understood as complex evolving systems that are characterised by both path dependency and the propensity to generate innovations in material forms, institutional arrangements, technology, culture and behaviour. Big data and mathematical models will be combined with insights from institutional social science, law, humanities and history to focus on three key arenas of metropolitan intervention: city morphologies (built forms and infrastructures) and resilience, city flux (mobility, dynamics) and technological change, health and wellbeing.

What do the traditions of modelling, institutional analysis and ethnography say, individually and collectively, about prediction and projection in the city?

How, in each city and across all geographical contexts, have socio-material systems generated new forms and structures to create an emergent urbanism?

 How have distinct scientific conventions and the city as a whole adopted knowledge that combines insights from different knowledge traditions?

 How does the PEAK platform maximise knowledge exchange to build capacity in cities, nations and the multilateral system to deal with prediction and projection, with emergent urbanisms of socio material systems and with the imperative to adopt interdisciplinary knowledge?

Global & Local

By concentrating on complex urban systems rather than discrete urban problems and by aligning multiple forms of knowledge, PEAK Urban will offer cohesive, evidence-based support to local, national and international policy makers and politicians. Care will be taken that those decision makers are able to absorb and adjudicate the insights offered, and competencies will be generated within cities to co-produce different forms of scientific knowledge and to make visible the trade-offs and ethical dilemmas associated with good governance in the city. Crucial to these efforts will be the training and cultivation of a cohort of new scholars trained globally, working collaboratively across conventional disciplinary concerns with cutting edge methods and approaches, and capable of engaging just as easily and comfortably in academic debates as in discussions with decision makers in town-halls, national governments and supranational organisations.

We invite applications for eight postdoctoral researchers to join an international cohort of scholars within the PEAK Urban project

Five research associate positions
Five research associate positions
Five postdoctoral fellow positions
Five postdoctoral fellow positions
1 postdoctoral researcher position
1 postdoctoral researcher position


+44 (0)1865 284900

UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a 5-year £1.5Bn fund and a key component in the delivery of the UK aid strategy: tackling global challenges in the national interest. The fund aims to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries.