Hamse Abdilahi

Student spotlight details

Alumnus Hamse Abdilahi was attracted to the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development due to its relevance to both rich and poor nations.

'Before I was enrolled in the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development (MSUD), I worked with civil society organisations. My work showed me the limitation of the aid sector to transform a developing society. I came to realise that only a well-functioning government which listens to the demands of its society, addresses their needs, employs science, data and technology in its mindset and policymaking, and harnesses both their individual and collective creativity, can bring about a real positive social change. Challenges to urban service provision kept coming back each time I was in the field.

'Growing up in the Horn of Africa, I watched the Western world’s extensive and modern infrastructure with great awe. The underground subways, well-built highways, and glass skyscrapers seemed to be otherworldly. My interest in urban infrastructure continued to grow as I associated the quality of urban infrastructure with the quality of the urban political elite. I believe our urban landscape reflects our competency, efficiency, and our living standards. And decades and centuries down the line, it is the chief remnant of our contemporary civilisation.

'With growing urban population across most parts of the world, providing superb municipal services—modern road infrastructure, sanitation and solid waste management, reliable water and power services, well-managed urban transport system—are key to efficient public service provision, a major feature of contemporary good governance.

'Incorporating sustainability and sustainable solutions into every major social and urban policy is vital. With the exception of a few voices on the fringes, both the developing and developed countries have increasingly come to accept that sustainable solutions need to be included in our energy, climate and environmental policies both at national and local levels.

'Besides the up-to-date and comprehensive nature of the MSUD course, I was attracted by its relevance to both rich and poor nations. I believe the developing world—which my country belongs to—critically needs sustainable development policies as it is the home of the world’s fastest-growing urban centres.

'I greatly enjoyed being taught by leading experts in their respective fields. The course work was indeed overwhelming, and meeting Oxford University’s high standards of academic writing really took me out of my comfort zone. Group discussions with exceptionally talented fellow students were key in expanding my thinking on many issues. Despite such overwhelming academic writing work and group discussions, I am deeply grateful to have successfully completed my course, and that I can proudly call myself an Oxford alumnus.

'The end of my course coincided with a national lockdown in the UK, and I am still thinking about how the skills I learned and the knowledge I gained can still be useful in a world which has dramatically changed since the outbreak of the Covid-19. The pandemic laid bare to the ever-growing urban inequality. I would be humbled to be part of a generation that can stand up to correcting our social injustices which could be a defining feature of our era—prosperous areas lying adjacent to deprived neighbourhoods.

'My advice to prospective students who might be thinking about or keenly interested in undertaking such an exciting academic journey at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, is to go for it. It might be a life-changing experience for them. It is my fervent belief that they, or at least the vast majority of them, won’t regret it all.'

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