Major multi-level spatial problems, also knowN as wicked problems, require multidisciplinary solutions and broad thinking.

The Master’s programme Spatial Engineering prepares you to address these problems by combining technical and socio-economic knowledge with a strong basis of spatial data analysis and modelling.

Wicked problems

A wicked problem is in fact a system of interrelated problems where there are many players and the problem adapts – it changes and anything you do will change the problem.

As an example, flooding is only a problem when we intended the flooded area for other purposes. We can as the following picture illustrates put up a warning sign which does not really solve the problem but prevents more problems from occurring (hopefully) or we can build dykes which moves the problem into another area. As you see most spatial problems are wicked problems.

So what can you do to  find a solution? Well, learn about the problem, study and watch the system, appreciate other points of view, become skilled in how to use the system and educate stakeholders.

(Picture by Morien Jones)

What can you do?

To learn about the system you need three core knowledge areas:

  1. Technical engineering to be able to model and understand the physical processes
  2. Spatial information to know where, when and what is happening, and
  3. Spatial planning and governance to be able to use for interventions as well as predict socio economic drivers. For each an explanation follows.


You always need three types of knowledge: in Spatial Engineering you learn the skills and methods to deal with all three!

Spatial information

The following map is an example of where what is happening in time. The map shows Jakarta in Indonesia. The city is slowly sinking. Between 1974 and 2010 more than four meters (13 feet). The land collapsed because water was pumped from aquifers beneath the city to supply the population of Jakarta.

Use spatial information to:

  • quantify the problem
  • provide data for modeling and predicting future effects
  • communicate about possible interventions.

Land subsidence in Jakarta in period 1974-2010 (Source: Deltares 2010)

Technical engineering

Technical engineering is needed to:

  • measure the model
  • design interventions
  • innovate.

Flood model simulation for the Kampala area

Spatial planning and governance

Socially robust interventions are those that are sustainable for the stakeholders involved. An example of non sustainable intervention can be found in Kampala. A flood drainage was build was not maintained and therefore does not solve the flooding problem. It increased the problems for the inhabitants of the city because they cannot cross the drainage canal. Another example of a solution creating new problems.

Use spatial planning and governance to:

  • ensure socially robust interventions
  • include stakeholders
  • understand socio-economic drivers of change. 

The place where science meets society!

Learning outcomes

As a graduate of the Spatial Engineering programme you will be able to contribute to solving wicked problems by:

  • using the core knowledge areas of technical engineering, spatial planning and governance and spatial information
  • applying scientifically sound spatio-temporal analysis and the development of models
  • taking into account socio-environmental drivers of system Earth and
  • conducting research projects in an international and interdisciplinary team.

Master the above and you are ready for your next move after you graduate with your master's from the University of Twente!

Chat offline (info)
To use this this functionality you first need to:
Accept cookies