Paul Hackett CBE

Student spotlight details

Having worked in the field for decades, Paul Hackett CBE found that the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development offered an expansive range of topics to further enhance his career ambitions.

'Before I enrolled on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development (MSUD) I was, and still am, the CEO of a major London-based housing association. I’ve worked in the sector for more than 30 years in a variety of roles covering the development, regeneration, and management of mixed-tenure housing. Between 2017 and 2019 I chaired the G15, representing London’s largest housing associations. G15 houses one in ten Londoners and builds a quarter of all new homes in London each year. I’d also been a member of the Homes for Londoners Board which advises the Mayor on housing policy in the capital. In addition to the day job, I’m also a board member of Real Equity for All, an NGO whose mission is to build an affordable homes movement to help 100 million people in urban Africa and Asia by 2030. I’m also an honorary professor at the UCL Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction.

'Housing associations operate at the apex of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The provision of affordable housing is a key ingredient in building sustainable cities. My NGO experience made me think about affordable housing provision in the global south as well as the global north. I wanted an international perspective on real-world problems of sustainable urban development and the MSc’s mix of topics – from urban planning to urban economics, from transport to the funding of sustainable cities – really appealed. Having worked in the field for decades it was really refreshing to be able to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions and to hear the perspectives of classmates from around the world.

'Balancing a full-time job and family life with two years of intense part-time study was the biggest challenge of studying on the MSc. However, I was much more organised and disciplined with my time than I was as an undergraduate. Despite the time management challenges I loved the reading and essay writing and found it was manageable and very rewarding. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in.

'I was lucky to be part of an amazing cohort of MSUD students, all of whom brought different experiences and perspectives to class discussions. The quality of the students and the knowledge and insights of the tutors made for an exhilarating learning experience.

'I’m in the process of merging two housing associations to form a new 77,000-home organisation. We’ll be one of the ten largest developers and managers of affordable housing in the UK. The merger negotiations overlapped with writing my dissertation, which made time management even more interesting!

'I’d urge anyone who’s interested in gaining a solid theoretical understanding of the challenges of urbanisation to apply. The broad reading list, the interdisciplinary approach, the small class sizes, and the quality of the students and tutors makes MSUD a unique and rewarding experience.'

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