Over the past twenty years, towns and cities have become major political actors and platforms owing to the reorganization of states, the construction of the European Union and globalization. In a post-Fordist context, they are essential settings in designing strategies for development, public policy production and, finally, societal governance and integration.
However, it is evident that this renewal of urban policies often takes stereotyped forms centred on issues linked to the construction of a service- and knowledge-based economy. These policies are systematically based upon developing and promoting the same resources and amenities: historic centres, the environmental quality of housing and public spaces, heritage, cultural and university-based offers, transport infrastructure, etc. These policies are socially selective in nature and ignore both "troubled" areas and urban resources that are seen as so many disadvantages to transform or even erase.
The fundamental difference of the Altervilles master degree programme is that it allows students to comprehend the diversity of urban configurations and it trains them to mobilize so-called "weak" resources that are rarely promoted by mainstream urban strategies: an industrial presence, informal economic activities, young people, ethnic minorities, seniors, etc. The programme also stands out in that it raises student awareness regarding particular sets of issues confronting municipalities that are occasionally neglected by globalization (secondary metropolises, industrial towns and cities, metropolitan interstices, etc.) and that require an increasing political and technical imagination
This programme's unique approach has been designed in close collaboration with numerous actors who are sharing the conviction that a renewal of urban policies and strategies can be engendered by the alternative solutions to be thought up in towns and cities provided with limited urban capital.