Universities are important to their local area, but can also bring cities together and create an era of new partnerships.
Amid the UK voting to leave the EU Sadiq Khan and Anne Hidalgo, Mayors of London and Paris, publicly vowed to work closer together. In a joint statement last year, they said if the nineteenth century was the age of empire and the twentieth century the age of the nation state, the twenty-first century is the age of the city.
Universities play an important role in their local area, but they can also be the glue that brings cities together and can help to introduce a new era of partnerships.
Two ideas are gathering force:
The first is cities taking on a far more important role. Cities have long been breeding grounds for new ideas and generators of wealth, but what’s new is the idea that cities shoulder the responsibilities of nations. Challenges such as climate change, disease and mass migration effortlessly cross national borders. Cities are the front line in tackling them.
The second idea is the critical role of universities in their local area. Universities are often the largest employer in their region, and for many years have seconded staff to local planning bodies and helped to shape policy. However, the traditional research and teaching roles of a university have changed. Working with local businesses and encouraging students to volunteer used to be labelled ‘third mission’ activity. For many universities, industry placements and research designed to meet business needs are now part of their core mission.
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