The Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at University of Twente in Netherlands is holding a one-day conference titled “New perspectives in higher education and regional development” on 30th of October 2012.
The main aim is to examine the role universities play in the knowledge society and the dynamics and tensions in the environment between the local and the global agendas. The event also marks the launch of a new book on universities and regional development.
The day includes a variety of activities, amongst else keynote presentations, in addition to panel and roundable sessions.  The day concludes with a lecture by Professor John Goddard, Newcastle University on the theme of “Higher Education and the Grand Challenges of Smart City Development”.
The university and the city: new perspectives on higher education and the Grand Challenges of urban development, Professor John Goddard, OBE, Newcastle University, 18.30-20.00, Van Berkhoff Zaal , 30th October 2012
It is now 25 years since Thomas Bender published The University and the City, a sweeping historical review of the intimate relationships between universities and their host towns. His thesis was that universities and cities had historically long been important to organising complex societies. Studying these institutions thus gave insights into wider processes of social development, as true in 15th century Medici Florence as 18th century Enlightenment Edinburgh and 20th Century industrial Chicago. The growth of higher education with emerging industrial democracy increasingly prized universities as spaces of autonomy in society. This could drive perceptions that universities’ social missions could be somehow detached from their locations. As urban sustainability becomes recognised as one of the most pressing Grand Challenges of the 21st century, there is an urgent need to understand how universities can contribute to the reinvention and evolution of cities and urban society.
Recently universities and cities are rediscovering each other based on a growing appreciation of shared interests, expressed in the emergence of ‘civic universities’ engaged as whole institutions with city development and linking the city to the global arena. While the drivers behind engagement between universities and cities may be global, the precise expression of this emerging relationship is certainly highly contingent on national and local circumstances. There is a huge amount of international evidence concerning the impacts of universities on their cities as places, as sites for innovation, on their wider economies and on their host societies. Universities thereby contribute to the physical, social and economic development of their respective cities. But universities are not just in places, they are also of these places, and universities’ capacities and potentials are shaped by how they interface with this local environment. How can universities in practice come to terms with their cities and work effectively with local partners to help build sustainable, healthy and creative cities?
In the CHEPS & RSA 2012 Distinguished Lecture, Professor John Goddard (Newcastle University, UK) discusses the drivers and barriers behind university engagement in city development from both city and university perspectives. It highlights the challenge of building bridges between the university and civil society broadly defined in a particular place. It draws upon ongoing OECD reviews of the role of universities in city and regional development which have identified the leadership challenge for both universities and cities if effective collaboration is to be established. These challenges are viewed in the context of debates about the role and purpose of public universities in response to major societal challenges and parallel calls for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive’ territorial development and for place based leadership. The two debates are brought together in the concept of the ‘civic university’ for which the city is a ‘living laboratory’ and where the university plays a key role in the ‘leadership of place’. The themes are illustrated by evidence gathered from studies in selected English cities including a large survey of academics in six universities and qualitative research to scope a universities and civic leadership development programme undertaken in these cities. The European lessons are drawn out by reference to a recently prepared European Commission guide on Connecting Universities to Regional Growth.