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Land Economy

The Course

Land Economy is a specialised subject within Cambridge, devoted to the multi-disciplinary study of land, property, the environment and resource management. There is a lively and active group of staff and students, operating within an intensive research-oriented environment. The two primary disciplines are law and economics, but the Department also incorporates geographers, planners and scientists.  It is a small department by Cambridge standards, yet there are over 40 teaching and research staff.

The teaching has been certified by an Independent Panel from the Government’s Quality Agency as being of the highest quality. The undergraduate teaching programme is a full three-year Tripos, in which students are given a solid grounding in microeconomics and macroeconomics, as well as public  and private law  and analytic methods. Later courses build on these legal and economic foundations, and draw together the two disciplines. Examples include papers on land and urban economics, environmental and regional economics, real property law, the law of landlord and tenant, the built environment, urban and environmental planning, real estate finance and investment, agriculture, forestry and rural development, and land policy and development economics.

The programme is rigorous and challenging. Students are introduced to complex debates, and to their practical implications. It is not a programme of vocational training yet has the advantage of accreditation by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in recognition of the importance of such rigorous education for leading property professionals, and partial exemptions from Law Society and Bar Council examinations.

The Department has a particularly strong research base, with 88% of our research classified as world leading or internationally excellent at the last national research excellence evaluation. That research is brought to the classroom, with many papers drawing on cutting edge research on contemporary problems in the natural and built environment. Students have the opportunity to undertake their own research through the Part 2 dissertation, supervised by one of the Department’s subject experts.

Each year the Department has an Open Day to which potential applicants are cordially invited. Further details are available on the page about Land Economy on the University website or alternatively, please see the Department's website.

Land Economy at Pembroke

Pembroke has long established links with the Department of Land Economy: the Department was founded by Professor Donald Denman, who was a Fellow of the College. Pembroke currently has two Fellows in Land Economy, Dr Maria Abreu and Professor Colin Lizieri. The Department, located in Silver Street, is only two minutes’ walk, from the College.

Dr Maria Abreu is University Lecturer in Land Economy, and her research covers urban economics, particularly urban issues such as poverty crime, social exclusion and segregation, economic development, labour markets and graduate career paths and international migration.  Prior to coming to Cambridge she worked for the World Bank in the areas of poverty, education and health, in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Maria teaches several undergraduate courses in the Department, including Land, Development and Sustainability (Part 1A), Land and Urban Economics (Part 1B and Part II) and Land Policy and Development Economics (Part II), in addition to supervising undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations.  She is Director of Studies in Land Economy and Undergraduate Tutor at Pembroke, and Co-Editor of the journal Spatial Economic Analysis.

Professor Colin Lizieri is the Grosvenor Professor of Real Estate Finance and currently Head of the Land Economy Department. He is also a Fellow of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and of the Royal Geographical Society. Colin’s research has focussed on real estate investment in global cities, office market dynamics and the relationships between finance and property prices.  He chaired the World Economic Forum industry panel on the Future of Real Estate and Urbanisation and has served on the research committees of  the Investment Property Forum and the European Public Real Estate Association. He has acted as an expert advisor and consultant to the European Union, the UK and Norwegian governments, the Corporation of London, the City of Toronto and numerous private sector organisations. He has appeared as an expert witness in the Lands Tribunal and the Australian federal courts on real estate matters. Colin contributes to real estate and finance related courses on the undergraduate programme, including the Land, Development & Sustainability and Fundamentals of Finance and Investment.


Pembroke regularly accepts around three undergraduates each year for Land Economy. Numbers fluctuate reflecting the quality of the field; there are no subject quotas.

There are no particular A Level (or equivalent) subject requirements for admission. Economics, Geography and Mathematics will all be very useful, but the course itself provides basic and extra remedial support in mathematics and economics, for example.

The admissions process normally consists of two interviews, one with Dr Abreu, the Director of Studies and one with  Professor Lizieri. The interviews include discussion of a problem of policy relevance related to Land Economy, such as land development, urban planning or the environment.  Prior knowledge of the topic is not required, the interviewers will guide applicants through the issues involved, and are more interested in thought processes than in outcomes.  Topics covered in the past include: a proposal to build a regional airport, planning permission for a wind farm close to a settlement, and the policy issues relating to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).  Applicants will also be asked to submit two pieces of written school work in November. This does not need to be on questions relevant to Land Economy.

A few of the undergraduates reading Land Economy at Pembroke take a year off after completing school before coming to university, and the College is very happy to receive applications for immediate or deferred entry.

Further enquiries should be addressed to the Admissions Office.

Further Information

The Department is particularly proud of the employment record of its graduates, which is amongst the strongest in the University, with graduates going into property, law, finance, banking and management consultancy, international development, the not-for-profit sector, as well as going on to further study. Our students and graduates get strong support from our alumni (the Camridge University Land Society – CULS – is the largest specialist alumni group in Cambridge) and our Advisory Board which consists of senior managers from industry, government and the built environment professions.

For further information, please see the Department website or the page about Land Economy on the University website. To find out what it could be like to study Land Economy at Pembroke, click to read a day in the life of Thomas, one of our recent graduates.

Go to the Land Economy faculty website