Universities as agents of urban development.

‘Of course, there is a body of opinion that would maintain that universities’ primary role is to deliver higher education and routes into gainful employment for their increasingly high fee-paying students, and question why they should take on the job of regenerating cities. Many universities have already come up with their own answers to that. The key drivers for university development are lack of space, competition with other institutions to attract and retain the best staff and students, and the need to generate diverse additional income streams, especially through research translation and professional training opportunities. Effective spatial development, which generates a healthy relationship with surrounding urban areas and communities, and other urban agents (city councils, local enterprise partnerships, third sector groups, and regional development agencies), is increasingly recognised by higher education institutions as fundamental to achieving all these goals.

Historian Thomas Bender has compared urban universities to immigrant neighbourhoods in US cities, where residents live both in both local place and in a trans-local, diasporic culture at the same time – grounded, while globally connected. From this perspective, universities need to develop a long-term view of how they nurture and evolve those everyday interactions, as embedded urban actors with a commitment to increasing the positive social impacts of their property assets. This requires effective mechanisms and communication both within and beyond the institution, significantly expanding on the statutory minimum for planning consultation, but this is often the most intractable part of the problem.’ – Times Higher Education

 

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