Designated Emphasis




The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Global Metropolitan Studies (GMS) is for UC Berkeley PhD students interested in urban and metropolitan and issues across the globe. The objective of the GMS Designated Emphasis is to support multidisciplinary doctoral-level education and research on global metropolitan issues, through a wide range of course offerings as well as through participation in seminars and conferences organized by GMS. The DE provides students with a context for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and development of research, opportunities for research funding, as well as a Designated Emphasis certification. Students applying to GMS may come from any discipline across campus.

A Designated Emphasis at UC Berkeley is an area of study constituting a new method of inquiry or an important field of application relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. It is not a free-standing degree program, but must be added as an additional “major” along with an existing doctoral degree program. Students electing to add a Designated Emphasis are required to complete the academic work in the Designated Emphasis in addition to all the requirements of the doctoral program. There are no adjustments made to the normative time of the student’s program when a student undertakes a Designated Emphasis.


Admission to the Designated Emphasis


Students must be accepted to the Designated Emphasis before taking their Qualifying Examination. Therefore, it is recommended that students apply at least two semesters before they plan to take their exams. The GMS Co-Directors select students on the basis of academic qualifications, research interests, and the enrollment capacity of the required courses. Applicants must already be enrolled or accepted in an existing Ph.D. program at Berkeley (master’s students and students at other institutions are not eligible). To apply for admission, please complete the GMS - DE Application. For inquiries, email Please refer to Graduate Division Degrees Policies, section F2.1 for more information.


Requirements of the Designated Emphasis




GMS DE students must complete two core courses and three electives. All electives and GMS 200 must be taken pre-candidacy, whereas GMS 201 should be taken post-candidacy. The student’s dissertation topic must also relate to metropolitan issues.


Core Courses


1. Global Metropolitan Studies 200: An Introduction to Theories, Histories, and Methods

This course provides an overview of different disciplinary approaches to understanding urban systems, drawing on scholarship from the social sciences, urban planning and landscape architecture, the natural sciences, and engineering. Course discussions should position students to identify approaches from other disciplines that could enrich the study of cities within their own field, as well as prepare students to enter interdisciplinary collaborations that address the complex challenges posed by urbanization.  The course is organized around four principal themes: 1) land markets and spatial inequality; 2) urban infrastructure and its social context; 3) cities in natural systems; 4) cities and technology. 

As a pilot for Spring 2020, we are trying a two-track approach such that students with research interests in urban theory can satisfy the GMS 200 requirement by taking as an alternative City Planning 290A, "Urbanization in the Global South" (Caldeira).


2. Global Metropolitan Studies 201: Dissertation Seminar

The dissertation writing seminar is designed for students who have completed their qualifying exams, and are working on their dissertations. The course is a dissertation writing seminar. Students engage with one another’s ongoing research projects and grapple with alternative approaches to the study of urban processes and problems. 


Elective Courses


GMS - DE Electives

Students in the Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies are required to take three elective courses on topics in metropolitan studies before the semester of the Oral Qualifying Exam. Students must either select from the GMS - DE Electives List or petition for an outside course from the GMS Co-Directors. DE Electives must be taken for graduate credit unless otherwise noted on the Electives List. No more than one elective course for the DE can be taken from the student’s home department. Note that not every course will be offered in any given year. Further, course titles may change slightly but the course number and instructor should match those listed (see DOCUMENTS at the right side of this page.)


Petitioning for Electives

GMS encourages students to petition for courses outside the list to be counted as a GMS elective. To petition, email Co-Directors your request with course title, number, instructor name, and syllabus. 


Committee Requirements


To qualify for the Designated Emphasis, students must include a GMS Faculty Affiliate on their Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Committee and must be examined also in an area related to the Designated Emphasis. A GMS Faculty Affiliate must be also included in the student Ph.D. Dissertation Committee. 


Preceding Oral Qualifying Exam:

1) Complete the Application for the Qualifying Exam. This can be found in Cal Central – My Dashboard > Student Resources > Submit a Form > Higher Degree Committees Form. Once submitted, the form will be electronically routed to your home department as well as to the GMS DE for approval.

2) GMS – DE Oral Qualifying Exam Checklist (see DOCUMENTS at the right side of this page.) Please complete the checklist and submit to


Following the Oral Qualifying Exam:

Complete the Application for Candidacy. The form can be found in Cal Central – My Dashboard > Student Resources > Submit a Form > Higher Degree Committees Form. Once submitted, the form will be electronically routed to your home department as well as to the GMS DE for approval. GMS will evaluate the form to ensure that the dissertation committee has an appropriate representative of the DE in its membership and that the student was examined on the area of the Designated Emphasis.


Funding for GMS DE Students


The GMS program regularly funds graduate student research and conference travel grants.  Please consult the funding page for announcements and calls for proposals. 


Inquiries and Support


All information on this page is listed in the GMS - DE Program Statement (see DOCUMENTS at the right side of this page.)

See links to GMS - DE documents on the right side of this page under News and Events links.

For any inquiries on the administrative processes, please email or speak with the GSAO in 224 Wurster Hall. For inquiries on DE admissions, elective course substitutions, funding, and general questions on the program, please contact the Co-Directors.