24 May 2017

The closing plenary of Going Global 2017 provided perspectives from city leaders and higher education experts on the opportunities and challenges in the relationship between city and university. 

Jean-Paul Addie from University College London opened the discussion, telling the audience that to be urban is to be contradictory, and institutions of higher learning need to grapple with this. “Most urbanization isn’t happening in what we traditionally think of as cities, but it’s happening in suburbs of large cities and it presents unprecedented opportunities and profound challenges.” 

He argued that there is much to be gained by developing mutual relationships, and that universities have a crucial role to be holding city town planners to account, to be what he described as ‘critical friends’. 

Marie-Christine Lemardeley, Deputy Mayor for Higher Education, Paris City Hall, France commented on the inextricable role of students in the city. 

“I want to weave students and researchers into the fabric of Paris. Cities should be proactive and reactive. We want students to enjoy the art of living in the heart of Paris. “

Also on the panel was Luca Bergamo, Vice-Mayor, Rome Municipality, Italy.  He said:  “The role of a university is to be part of a process that leads to individual emancipation, the fulfilment of human rights.”  

Yerlan Aukenov, Deputy Mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan agreed, adding: “The university should be the heart of the city”

Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council, UK, referred to the tensions that exist between university and cities, and the competing interests within cities.  Speaking about her tenure as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cape Town University, she said:

“It’s incumbent on the university to engage with social challenges in the city.  We need to think about how to marry civic engagement with local engagement and the society in which universities are located, alongside the ambition of the university to be global, and indeed for the city to be global. There are no easy answers.”

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