In light of rising populism around the world, universities have been viewed as the "liberal elite" and as "ivory towers". Distrust between universities and local communities has never been higher, but there is mutual benefit to be gained from better working with local communities and including them in knowledge production. The session will be largely based around looking at the role universities could have in addressing the causes of the rise in populism across Europe and America by strengthening engagement with the public and local communities. By firstly providing context for the political situations in the UK and America, the session will then draw from the experiences and approaches of  European rectors' conferences to look at ways in which universities can work with and learn from local communities to improve the broader political context we find ourselves in.

Following that analysis, an international panel will discuss in what ways universities can address these challenges, including a critical evaluation of universities' position in society and the change that is needed. The discussion will also include concrete steps universities can take to initiate these changes.

During the session, the following questions will be addressed:

• Why are experts/government/the liberal elite so distrusted and what can we do about this?

• Have our universities lost touch with the 'local'?

• Increasing inequality and how can universities tackle this problem?