Here’s how universities can help create connected and inclusive cities

A city with a university: Oxford High Street, 1890s. Image: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

Take a walk around any city, and you will probably spot the signs of other countries and cultures. Crossing Pearse Street in Dublin, you can pop into Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery for a coffee, and browse the latest exhibition on sound and noise, which features displays from around the world. Stopping by Hannover’s Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), you can spot a plaque listing international partner cities, from Blantyre to Bristol.

It may not be obvious to the casual visitor, but many of the links between global cities are actually mirrored in the relationships between universities around the world. Both universities and cities thrive when their people are connected, and the fates of both these institutions are closely tied to their leaders’ ability to improve local areas and attract talented people.

In my own research, I looked at how four cities – Amsterdam, Dublin, Glasgow and Hannover – engage with what’s going on around the world, and incorporate those insights locally.


Visitors at SOUND CHECK, a free exhibition at Science Gallery, TCD until 24 September 24. Image: Dublin Science Gallery.

Dublin’s universities work to spread the benefits of international activity to marginalised communities. Trinity College Dublin holds an international foundation programme for foreign students to develop study skills at an associated college, outside of the city centre. This helps to tackle prejudice, as foreign students come to live in an area – and interact with local people – which they wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

Dublin City University attracts 120 nationalities to its historically deprived north Dublin neighbourhood. It also works in the regional “corridor” that connects the city to Belfast, helping to shape the development of the region with the fastest-growing population on the island. The university collaborates with city leaders to host public events, alternating venues from the city centre to the campus and encouraging different communities to mingle.


A welcome sight: Hannover City Hall. Image: Daniel Mennerich/Flickr/creative commons.

Hannover’s city officials understand the importance of a warm welcome. Hannover city hall, together with the city’s nine universities, coordinates a comprehensive welcome programme for all new students arriving in the city, with local residents acting as ambassadors. This encourages talented young people to stay and become a part of the local community.

What’s more, forging international connections opens new opportunities for local businesses to sell goods and services, and for cities to attract students, workers and visitors. Leibniz Universität has a Chinese alumnus who returns often to Hannover on business and visits the university; he connects people from different industries, cities and universities in the process.

The university has also established programmes to support refugees, recognising that these immigrants have the capacity to contribute to the local community, too. Efforts like this continue universities’ proud history of brokering links between nations, to ease the tensions wrought by nationalism and anti-EU rhetoric.


Amsterdam: big on canals, short on houses. Image: gibffe/Flickr/creative commons.

Amsterdam’s leaders recognise that infrastructure challenges – such as a lack of high-quality, affordable housing, or efficient public transport – act as a barrier to attracting and retaining skilled people. In Amsterdam, housing is a central issue for both the city government and universities.

This is reflected in Amsterdam’s strategy for international talent, which brings together the local municipalities, universities, community players and health care organisations to improve the quality and availability of housing.


Glasgow’s city and university staff work together to harness the power of events. Glasgow’s Convention Bureau collaborates with universities to bid for and host international academic conferences and meetings, locating them in different parts of the city in an effort to bring locals and visitors together and stimulate the local economy. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art are also leading the revitalisation of Renfrew Street as a cultural hotspot.

Conclusion: The long game

Effective international engagement is at the core of good business and effective government. But it can only emerge as the product of deep collaboration between city officials, universities and other local partners. There is no one model; different cultures, histories and levels of resources shape collaboration in every city.

Capturing the value of this engagement does not boil down to tracking international student numbers or foreign direct investment. It is a long-term game, where people and ideas flow inwards and outwards, creating an attractive, open, vibrant place to live and work. Cities can capitalise on the cultural buzz which emerges as a result of these connections.

Collaboration between university staff and city officials also offers a way of reaching out to marginalised areas. Experience has shown that local communities can and should be involved in international activities, whether through public events or consultation. Otherwise, these activities can lead to tension between long-term residents and new arrivals, feelings of resentment, and a loss of a sense of belonging.

The ConversationThe case in favour of fostering international connections is clear. By making the link between, say, the provision of quality housing and international competitiveness, both city and university leaders have a strong motive to work together, creating better places for locals, and attracting talent from around the world.

James Ransom is a PhD candidate in international higher education at UCL.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


America's cities can't police their way out of this crisis

Police deployed tear gas during anti-racism demonstrations in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As protesters took to the streets across the United States over the weekend to express their anger at police killings of unarmed black Americans, it was hard to miss the hypocrisy coming from local authorities – including the otherwise progressive, left-leaning officials who are in power in most major American cities. 

Many US mayors and their police chiefs had issued public statements over the past week that seemed – only briefly, as it turned out – to signal a meaningful shift in the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement is being taken seriously by those who are in a position to enact reforms. 

The sheer depravity of the most recent high-profile killing had left little room for equivocation. George Floyd, 46, died last Monday under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while three additional officers helped to hold Floyd down, doing nothing to aid him as he begged for them to stop and eventually lost consciousness. The officers had been attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. All four have since been fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge—it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Washington Post in response to the Floyd case. Meanwhile Moore’s boss, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday claimed that he understood why his city, which is no stranger to police brutality, was protesting. “We absolutely need as a nation, certainly as a city, to voice our outrage, it’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who’s been murdered for the structural racism that we have in our country,” Garcetti said. 

Normally, US police chiefs and mayors tend to ask citizens to withhold judgment on these types of cases until full investigations can be completed. But a 10-minute video recording of Floyd’s killing had made what happened plain. Police chiefs across the country – and even the nation’s largest police union, which is notorious for defending officer abuses – similarly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, in a rare show of moral clarity that, combined with the arrest of Chauvin, offered at least a glimmer of hope that this time things might be different. 

As the events of the weekend have since shown, that glimmer was all too fleeting. 

In city after city over the past three days, US mayors and their police chiefs made a series of the same decisions – starting with the deployment of large, heavily armed riot units – that ultimately escalated violent confrontations between officers and protesters. Images widely shared on social media Saturday and Sunday nights made it clear that members of law enforcement were often initiating the worst of the violence, and appeared to treat protesters as enemy combatants, rather than citizens they were sworn to protect. 

In New York City, two police SUVs were seen plowing into a crowd of protesters, while elsewhere an officer was recorded pulling down a young protester’s coronavirus mask in order to pepper spray his face

In Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman was fatally shot by police on 13 March, state police in riot gear were captured confiscating and destroying protesters’ supplies

In Minneapolis, forces opened fire with nonlethal rounds on residential streets, much to the shock of homeowners standing on their own front porches. 

Images of police pushing or shoving peaceful protesters were almost too numerous to count, including, in Salt Lake City, an elderly man with a cane

In many places, police also targeted journalists who were covering the protests, firing at clearly identifiable media crews with rubber bullets, injuring and even arresting reporters

Some protesters did commit acts of vandalism and looting, and the leaders of cities where that happened generally responded in the same ways. 

First, they blamed “outside agitators” for the worst protester behaviour, a claim that harkens all the way back to the civil rights era and for which the evidence is murky at best

Next, they enacted sudden curfews with little to no warning, which gave law enforcement an excuse to make mass arrests, in some cases violently. 

In a pair of widely criticized moves, Garcetti of Los Angeles closed the city’s Covid-19 testing centers and suspended the entire mass transit system Saturday evening, stranding essential workers on their way home from daytime shifts. Late Sunday night in Chicago, the city’s public school system halted its free meal distribution service for low-income children, citing “the evolving nature of activity across the city”.  

Governors in at least 12 US states, in coordination with city leaders, have since called in National Guard troops to “help”. 

At this point it’s clear that the leaders of America’s cities are in desperate need of a radically different playbook to respond to these protests. A heavily armed, militarised response to long-simmering anger toward the heavily armed, militarised approach to American policing is more than ironic – it’s ineffective. Granting police officers wider latitude to make arrests via curfews also seems destined to increase the chances of precisely the tragic, racially biased outcomes to which the protesters are reacting. 

There are other options. In places such as Flint, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey – both poor cities home to large black populations – local law enforcement officials chose to put down their weapons and march alongside protesters, rather than face off against them. In the case of Camden, that the city was able to avoid violent clashes is in no small part related to the fact that it took the drastic step of disbanding its former police department altogether several years ago, replacing it with an entirely new structure. 

America’s cities are in crisis, in more ways than one. It’s not a coincidence that the country has tipped into chaos following months of emotionally draining stay-at-home orders and job losses that now top 40 million. Low-income Americans of colour have borne a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s ravages, and public health officials are already worried about the potential for protests to become Covid-19 super-spreading events.

All of this has of course been spurred on by the US president, who in addition to calling Sunday for mayors and governors to “get tough” on protesters, has made emboldening white nationalists his signature. Notably, Trump didn’t call on officials to get tough on the heavily armed white protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building over coronavirus stay-at-home orders just a few weeks ago. 

US mayors and their police chiefs have publicly claimed that they do understand – agree with, even – the anger currently spilling out onto their streets. But as long as they continue to respond to that anger by deploying large numbers of armed and armored law enforcement personnel who do not actually live in the cities they serve, who appear to be more outraged by property damage and verbal insults than by the killings of black Americans at the hands of their peers, and who are enmeshed in a dangerously violent and racist policing culture that perceives itself to be the real victim, it is hard to see how this crisis will improve anytime soon. 

Sommer Mathis is the editor of CityMetric.