In 2018 I spoke at a workshop on urban universities in South Africa, organised by Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute and South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council.
My slides and related thoughts from the event are on the blog here, but there’s also been a flurry of recent press coverage of the discussions, including good summaries in the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian and University World News.
South Africa faces tremendous challenges and opportunities that quickly become clear when looking at the development of the higher education system and of urban areas. For example, issues such as student housing in cities are deeply tied into issues of access, identity and opportunity in society. International Higher Education recently published a good summary (open access) of the forces that have rocked South African universities in recent years, and the impact this has across the continent. And University World News rounded out the coverage of the Cape Town event with two other pieces on universities and development in South Africa here and here, which are worth a read.
(Photo of Cape Town via Unsplash)
Issues facing universities are often shared by the city they are in
Today’s Economist has an article on the University of Oxford’s property development plans – in particular, building new housing.
Homes in Oxford are among the least affordable in Britain. The housing pinch is keenly felt by postdoctoral researchers, 4,500 of whom work in Oxford on short-term contracts with unspectacular pay. The university realised that these academic serfs, who form the backbone of its intellectual project, were spending huge amounts of their income on rent and that if it wanted to remain competitive it would have to find them more places to live.
Many UK cities outside of London have a shortage of skilled workers (and London too has skills shortages in particular areas). Cities and universities are hungry for more people. Infrastructural weaknesses – from dodgy travel connections to a lack of quality and affordable housing – can act as bottlenecks to future growth and obstacles to attracting talented people. The issues facing universities are often shared by the city they are in.
Many European cities have ambitious growth plans. Some want to revitalise particular districts, others recognise they need another 200,000 people to become truly competitive. Where countries have targets in place to, for example, double the number of international students, cities and universities need to work together to accommodate new arrivals. I’ll be presenting new research on how universities and cities are working together on internationalisation, including addressing shared infrastructure challenges, at Going Global in May this year in London.