Where are London’s universities, and what are the implications for London’s city-regional geography?
University College London’s UCL 2034 strategic plan declares:
UCL is committed to becoming a global leader in knowledge exchange, enterprise and open innovation. Our relationship to London is central to this commitment. We will bring our profile as London’s Global University and our international connectivity to bear on establishing UCL at the centre of a cluster of organisations that are able to make London the premier destination for higher education, research and innovation in the world. (University College London 2014, 10).
UCL, in other words, intends to be “in London, of London and for London” (ibid). Drawing on some recent work theorizing urban infrastructure, I want to consider what this might actually mean, in conceptual and concrete terms, for the 21st century urban university. Starting with the proposition that urban universities can no longer be understood as simply located ‘in the city’, I suggest we need to think through the ways in which (and the implications of) higher education institutions being: (1) physically embedded in urban landscapes; (2) produced through place-based governance structures and local labor and student markets; and (3) supportive of urbanization and urban ways of life through the production and dissemination of urban knowledge.