What will education look like tomorrow? Martin Parker looks at how universities can help local economic regeneration


Universities are clearly important players in their local cities, with huge effects on employment, housing, and culture. Bristol is no exception, with the Temple Quarter project by the main railway station set to transform that area of the city and have huge effects on its neighbouring communities. I am the new Director of an institute established at the University which tries to understand just how the development can maximise benefits for the citizens of the city who often have nothing directly to do with higher education. Why should they care about Temple Quarter?

Speaking at the Economics of Happiness conference at Bristol Harbourside in October, I will be talking about my research on what university Business Schools should be doing to help local economic regeneration. Together with Sado Jirde from the Black South West Network, and Chris Brink (ex head of Newcastle University) we will be discussing just how universities shape dominant ideas. What are the roles and responsibilities of universities in relation to local economies? Can higher education respond better to the needs and demands of society? Can it help create different futures?

Given the challenges that face us, we will need economies that are low carbon and hence more local. This probably means smaller organizations, and a renewed attempt to govern and think in regional or civic frames. The age of the big organization might be behind us, and we need to plan for a future in which we can no longer afford long supply chains and a throwaway society. Neither can we afford the kind of social exclusions which mean that organizations tend to be dominated by middle aged white men. We know that the future will not be the same as the past, so can universities begin to shape it?

Martin Parker