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Sophie Sturup

Senior Associate Professor

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Personal profile

Personal profile

Dr Sophie Sturup is a Senior Associate Professor in Urban Planning and Design at Xian Jiaotong Liverpool University. She is Programme Director BEng Urban Planning and Design, and Chair of the Department Progress Committee. After completing her undergraduate degree in Science at University of Melbourne in 1994, Dr Sturup worked in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance in the unit established to privatise the state owned electricity and gas services. During this time she developed her own consultancy practice and after the completion of the privatisation process in 1999, she worked in various capacities including as Secretary to the Australian Energy Alliance (providing advice to the APEC Energy Business Network) and on a project to ensure appropriate handling of the contingent liabilities associated with contractors records for Public Record Office Victoria. Dr Sturup completed a Masters of Science in Geography at University of Oxford in 2006 and completed her PhD “Managing Mentalities of Mega Projects” at University of Melbourne in 2011. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in public sector management from Flinders University, and is recognised as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. Concerned primarily with mechanisms that allow for the development of what it is to be human, and the emancipation of human being, Dr Sturups current research interests include: the effective development and harnessing of public private partnerships; ontologies of urban and strategic planning; the technology and ontologies of mega urban transport projects; and effective governance and development of sustainable urban transport networks.

Research interests

My research and professional work is framed by the overall question: how can the structures of society (cities, institutions, policy, economy) work in the service of the emancipation of human being. Until recently my research has been focused on three areas: mega projects, public private partnerships and urban agglomerations, a new research direction I am following is related to public transport networks.

Key questions I am engaged with include: How can mega projects be harnessed to produce beneficial urban reconfiguration? What is the potential in partnership in public private partnership? How can public transport act as a viable and preferable alternative to the private car?

In pursuing these questions I have used both qualitative and quantitative methods, including in-depth interviews, historical and archival research, policy analysis, algorithm development and statistical mapping. I believe it is important that the structures of society are designed to forward the emancipation of human being, and rigorously reviewed to ensure they are serving that purpose.

In my PhD I developed a method for understanding features of the mentality or mode of being present in different entities. I have expanded that methodology into new domains, of public private partnerships and planning itself. My PhD work on mega projects demonstrated a method for analysing the way technology, rationality and knowledge within mega projects combine to create a specific mentality or mode of being in the people working in them. This mentality explains why mega projects are resistant to improvement from new developments in technologies such as cost benefit analysis, rational planning, and community consultation. I found that the logic of power in mega projects is sovereignty, that they are governed by project mentality, and that they form through a process of developing problems to which they are the solution. There are numerous implications from these findings.

The method I developed for my mega project research combined in depth project description derived from archival research, document review, engineering and technical documentation, legislative context and journalistic reports, with two sets of interviews. One set of interviews was based on story-telling and analysed using narrative analysis; the other was based on traditional in-depth interview techniques. In the long term my goal is to develop an understanding of how mega projects can be harnessed to deliver the transformation to cities that will be needed in a sustainable future. This is especially important given the rapidly urbanising population will only make large scale reconfiguration of cities more complex and challenging. I would also like to explore more of the sociological impacts of project thinking. Particularly how that thinking manifests itself in the structures of society and in individuals lives. It is in pursuit of this higher level objective that this research stream has taken a turn towards understanding how the wrong projects might be stopped once decided upon. I have also begun to explore mega project mentality in China as the size and scale of normal events have quite different meanings in that country.

I have also been conducting research to examine how the concept of partnership could manifest in public private partnerships. This is an extension of my research into mentalities of mega projects, which indicated that the logic of project is dominant in PPPs. The logic of project focuses on delivery of a highly defined object within a specified timeframe and budget. This is very different to the logic of partnership, which is about long term relationship building with a view to risk and profit sharing. The research is seeking to understand whether and how the logic of partnership can actually manifest in infrastructure delivery, and to test the functional, ethical and social justice aspects of such partnerships.

I am also currently engaged in a number of projects around the implementation of networked (or one line one road) public transport in China. This work acknowledges that high performance public transport is an imperative for Chinese cities. Many cities are engaged in mega projects of various kinds to rapidly build metro systems. There is an urgent need to build into these new systems ideas about how they connect and integrate with other parts of the public transport system to allow fast and efficient anywhere to anywhere travel across metropolitian areas. Without this ambitions to curb car use and retain a livable and walkable environment will not be realised.


Senior Tutor - Urban Environments, Faculty Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne - 2012 to 2014

Principle, Sturup Consulting - 2010 to 2013

Researcher/Tutor - Various positions, Faculty Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne - 2009 to 2013

Coordinator Future Melbourne Project, Faculty Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne - 2007 to 2007

Principle, ANTUR Projects Pty Ltd - 2000 to 2006

Policy Officer, Department of Treasury and Finance, State Government of Victoria - 1995 to 2000


Politics Society and Participation - UPD405

Contemporary Planning Practice in Western Europe and North America – CDE102

Introduction to Urban Planning and Design – CDE002

Projecting and Managing Urban Futures – CDE206

Networks and Cities – CDE203

Planning Systems and Public Policy – ARCH1295

Sustainable Transport and Public Policy - ABPL705-536

City Futures –ABPL20045

Urban Environments – ENVS10007

intensive courses in planning through the College of Business, Executive Education, RMIT

Transport, Land Use and Urban Form - ABPL90077

Minor Thesis (Commencing) - ABPL90217

Governing Environments – ENVS10005

Professional Practice (now Architectural Practice – ABPL90140)

Planning the Productive City (now Economies of Cities and Regions - ABPL90246)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

Grad. Certificate Public Sector Management (Flinders University, Australia, 2000)

Ph.D. , University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria - 2011

M.Sc , University of Oxford, Oxford, UK - 2007

BSc (Hons) , University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria - 1994

Person Types

  • Staff


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