In the last few decades, universities have emerged as key players in urban and regional development and the ‘regeneration’ of their city regions. In light of their increasingly ‘hands on’ role with respect to urban economic growth, combined with the intense pressure to augment rank, reputation and enrolment in a highly competitive sector, higher educations institutions (HEIs) are investing billions of pounds into their campuses and wider communities. The outcome is the emergence of new geographies of higher education and of neoliberal urban restructuring – processes which are intertwining and reinforcing one another in evermore complex and consequential ways.
In response to universities’ apparently increased engagement in entrepreneurial, speculative and financialised forms of real estate development, this project asks how, why and to what extent this is occurring in different cities across the UK. It does so specifically by examining the development portfolios of the University of Manchester (England) and the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), two of the largest investors in real estate among UK HEIs currently. More generally, the project is concerned with offering a critical understanding of how HEIs are increasingly implicated in the (re)making of their cities’ economies geographies, urban form, and political governance. It considers how we can construct more inclusive, deliberative and sustainable approaches to university development that present enduring benefits for urban communities.