The concept of the academy was initiated with the formation of the first universities in cathedral and monastic schools during the Middle Ages. Stemming from this origin, we have inherited an institution historically defined by its introversion epistemologically, ontologically and spatially. More recent conceptualisations position the university in a more co-joined relationship with the wider world, reflected in writer Adrienne Rich’s proposition of a ‘university without walls.’ Other suggested names include the edgeless university, the community campus, and community hub.
Whatever the name, envisioned is an academic praxis in a dialogic relationship with the community. To this dialogue the university brings its learned insights, rigour and underlying theory, as well as students and staff increasingly eager for such opportunity; simultaneously the community brings its own energy and knowledge gained through everyday experience.
Intrinsic to this praxis is its embedding in cross-disciplinary collaboration within the university and with external partners. Equally central to this reimagined praxis is its positioning directly within the communities with which it is working, located in community hubs or campuses that offer a co-authored and shared space of learning, empowerment and exchange. Our city centres offer one such focal point for intervention; once the locus of retail and commercial activity, the future life of city centres is envisioned as a multivalent space embracing a rich mix of cultural, educational, and healthcare agendas.
Afforded by this approach are a multitude of benefits, including providing innovative, interdisciplinary education, generating insightful research that expands knowledge across disciplinary fields and contributing leadership and meaningful support to the city. Thinking on this agenda has to date been advanced by the Urban Dialogues Network
(with support from the Arts Institute
), connecting with the successful work of colleagues from a diverse range of disciplines and equally with external partners. Further thinking is being enabled through the support of the Centre for Sustainable Futures
, Institute of Education
and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business’ Knowledge Exchange team, The Bridge
Underpinning this work is the University’s ethos of being a civic university and its aspiration to develop graduates and knowledge that can make a difference, advancing our disciplines while simultaneously contributing to the betterment of society, culture, the economy and the environment.