Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Creating Global-Ready Places: The Campus-Community Connection

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Creating Global-Ready Places: The Campus-Community Connection

Article excerpt

Global demographics are shaping new civic patterns which will strengthen the relationship between universities and cities in ways that create local prosperity.

The forces of globalization are reshaping the relationships between U.S. higher education institutions and their host communities in the 21st century. Universities and cities are challenged to redefine their niches in the international marketplace, where ideas and knowledge are the new currency. That mutual challenge is driving new forms of town-gown collaboration aimed at economic and civic development. The logic of linking and leveraging civic and institutional resources to make cities and universities global-ready is compelling, with robust precedents in the nation's past.

Collaboration between universities and their localities to foster regional economic development has long been part of U.S. collegiate history, becoming a de facto instrument of national public policy with the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. In the burgeoning post-war decades of the 20th century, the civic fabric of many localities was altered as much by the growth of higher education institutions as by any other form of urban development. Af ter Wo rid War II, the concept of urban renewal was used to spur institutional growth in declining inner city areas. At the same time, universities also began to embark on ambitious real-estate projects to accommodate their research and development enterprises, occasionally working in concert with the public sector on these efforts. Silicon Valley and the North Carolina Research Triangle are significant examples of regional transformation resulting from such ventures.

This article posits that we are poised in this century to reimagine new civic patterns that bring universities and cities together in their common quest for global readiness-a quest we can use as a tool to create better local places. The background of this idea comes from two sources: (1) a centuries-old story of the durability of the civic-institutional relationship, and (2) a 21st-century understanding of the global factors driving the need to rethink the relationship between campus and community.

The Sorbonne: An Old Story with Modern Lessons

In 1964, Clark Kerr made his memorable observation about the enduring nature of universities as worldly institutions: "About 85 institutions in the Western World established by 1520 still exist in recognizable forms, with similar functions and with unbroken histories, including the Catholic church, the Parliaments of the Isle of Man, of Iceland and of Great Britain, several Swiss cantons and 70 universities" (Kerr 1964, p. 115). One of the oldest of Kerr's 70 venerable institutions is the Sorbonne (the University of Paris), which has been closely bound with its city for roughly eight centuries (figure 1). The university was chartered at the beginning of the 13th century under the reign of King Philip II, who also saw the city's main thoroughfares paved and its central market built. The Sorbonne began as a European center of theological teaching. Despite periods of retrenchment during the Reformation and the French Revolution, the university survived to become one of the world's leading scientific institutions, with 13 successor universities located throughout Paris and its environs. The Sorbonne has maintained its identity, even as it has been remade several times as a center of thought for a changing city and a changing world. In the bargain, the magnetism of Paris has nurtured the university's global preeminence. The two entities are intertwined, not just in the civic fabric, but in their place in the world.

The relationship between the Sorbonne and the city of Paris illustrates those attributes that the global campus of the 21st century must possess-longevity of purpose and place and the ability to be both a source of regional identity and an engine of social change. Universities are among only a handful of socioeconomic entities that are defined by their staying power and their lasting ties to the localities in which they have evolved. …

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