Imagining the 21st Century Urban University promotes critical, policy-relevant dialogue on the role of universities, and their relationship with cities, in a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing world. It is now a well-worn adage that we now live in an ‘urban age’ with more than half the world’s population living in cities. This purported epochal transition raises unprecedented opportunities for universities to apply their expertise, influence policy agendas, and assume critical positions as urban leaders on the globe stage. Yet it also presents profound challenges for academic institutions, both in terms of the changing expectations and functions placed on higher education and where in the world – and the city – university adaptions need to proactively unfold. Through empirical research and workshop discussions held in Atlanta, Singapore and Cape Town, South Africa, global perspectives from academic researchers, university administrators, and public policy officials provide a portrait of cutting-edge developments at the interface of higher education and urban society. In doing so, the project offers an opportunity to reappraise the university as a crucial collective actor both responding to and reshaping the landscapes of global urbanization. The project is supported by an International Collaborative Urban Research Grant from Georgia State University.
An Imagining the 21st Century Urban University working paper for can be found here. The paper forwards a series of ideas and provocations to catalyze debate and discussion around the potential opportunities (and limitations) for universities and cities to work together on adaptive responses to the lived experience of the ‘urban age’.
As part of the project, a roundtable panel session held at the 2018 Atlanta Studies symposium convened urban and academic leaders from across metropolitan Atlanta to explore what it means to be an urban university in the 21st century global metropolis. Panelists Mary Beth Walker (Georgia State University); Robert Franklin Jr. (Emory University); Bruce Stiftel (Georgia Tech); Rita Gibson (University Community Development Corporation); and Sam Williams (Georgia State University) offered their distinct perspectives on the changing roles of ‘town’ and ‘gown’. A wide-ranging conversation covered the task of connecting urban and academic agendas for institutions that has traditional pursued national and global markets rather than local mandates, the demands of ethical and responsible leadership, embracing the city as a classroom and center of student life, and the need to improve the exchange of university-generated knowledge into the regional economy.
On 16 August 2018, Jean-Paul Addie ran the workshop “Locating the Urban University: International Dialogues with South African Policy and Practice” in Cape Town, South Africa. The event, which was co-organized by the Urban Studies Institute and the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, brought together 24 international and South African academics, policymakers, and practitioners to explore two key themes: (1) the nexus of urban development and universities’ spatial practices in South Africa; and (2) universities’ role in producing urban knowledge, experts, and capacity-building to tackle the demands of 21st-century urbanization. Key topics discussed in the context of South Africa included: the impact of the #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall movements, the challenges of reproducing student life in the city (especially surrounding issues of student housing), the institutional and financial constraints faced by South Africa’s local innovation sectors, the need for leadership and capacity-building to build in absorptive capacity of agencies partnering with universities, and universities’ role in unlocking the land question in South African cities to promote equitable urban development. Read a full workshop report here.