What happens when cities and universities work together to shape local cultural policies?

25 October 2019

Today, a university is very much a part of the city it’s in, and universities and cities can work together to build a better urban future. Both are locally rooted, globally aware, responsive and pragmatic, willing to work with communities to transform themselves and their environment.

If cities are taking on a far more important role as breeding grounds for new ideas and generators of wealth, locally rooted universities have an increasingly important role to play in their community and in all aspects of the city’s economic and social evolution. Universities have the power to create exciting, connected and inclusive cities and influence the development agenda of cities in which they reside. Local authorities recognise this influence, competence and role, and partner with their local universities through shared spaces, partnerships, university-led public symposia, grassroots projects and media conversations.

Three examples are discussed in this article:

  • Leeds City Council and University of Leeds have a long history of collaboration and strong cultural links from the start. This is reflected in the Cultural Institute that was launched in 2016 to better connect the university with cultural partners. The University of Leeds is investing to develop young leaders and future creative innovators that will be able to engage and participate in Leeds’ cultural life once their studies are over.
  • The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is today the oldest university in Europe. The University and Comune di Bologna have a long history of collaboration, and both institutions have been working together on culture, cultural heritage and urban regeneration for a long time. This cooperation has been reinforced thanks to the ROCK EU-funded project which is coordinated by both institutions together. The city and the university together in the ROCK project are leading several experiments in the heart of the historic centre, to tap into the creative potential of students and enhance university citizenship.
  • Smart institutions make smart cities: Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is a research university specializing in engineering science and technology. Eindhoven has become a testing ground for tools and technologies developed inside the university walls. The proximity of the city and its eagerness to benefit from research creates an ideal experimental setting for action research. Eindhoven citizens are testers and actors of this giant urban Living Lab and benefit from most of the innovative solutions that come out of it.

In planning for the future city, universities and city leaders need to work together. As cities stand at the forefront of innovation in policy making and shoulder more responsibilities when it comes to global challenges, universities can support them by being their partners, their think tanks, their talent suppliers, and their knowledge producers.

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