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
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:
- Universities impart dynamism and resilience to the economies of urban regions, helping their host cities to reinvent themselves over time.
- At the same time, universities are tremendously important stabilizing forces on urban economies, and on the local neighbourhoods they inhabit.
- Universities connect their host regions to the world, and vice versa.
- 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?