Big City, Big Ideas

September 18, 2014

Universities, Cities, & Prosperity:
An Agenda for the Future

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Thank you for that kind introduction.

I am delighted to be here. I am grateful to Enid Slack and her fellow organizers and sponsors for inviting me to speak in this terrific series, and to address a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

I am also delighted to welcome those of you from outside the University of Toronto – it’s wonderful to see such a great turnout! This series, and others like it at U of T, embody so well the role a great university should be playing in the life of the city, and the importance of opening up the university in service to the city

Executive Summary

On 29 May of this year, I had the pleasure of speaking at TRBOT on ‘The University & the City’, to a full room of civic leaders. I made the case that a strong University helps build a strong city, and vice versa: a strong host city enables a university to excel nationally and internationally.

I also signaled as clearly as possible that the University of Toronto is embracing its role as a city-builder and welcomes opportunities to collaborate with other actors and organizations in the city-region to advance the quality of life here in the GTA. This is not just ‘the right thing to do’, I argued. It is enlightened self-interest.

I want to dig a little deeper into the same themes this afternoon.

Here is the executive summary of my basic argument:

  1. Universities impart dynamism and resilience to the economies of urban regions, helping their host cities to reinvent themselves over time.
  2. At the same time, universities are tremendously important stabilizing forces on urban economies, and on the local neighbourhoods they inhabit.
  3. Universities connect their host regions to the world, and vice versa.
  4. These processes and dynamics are very much present in this region Indeed, the University of Toronto is a wonderful exemplar.

I would like to explore this relationship more fully in this afternoon’s talk. I will conclude by reflecting on ways forward: how we can nurture and build this relationship for the mutual benefit of the city and the university?

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