Global drive aims to bind town to gowns

November 30, 2001

A new international network plans to bring universities and cities together to boost regional development.

Univercities - comprising universities and city councils from places as diverse as Turku in Finland, Newcastle in the United Kingdom, Monterrey in Mexico and Dakar in Senegal - aims to give city planners the benefit of university knowledge and enable universities to contribute to local development.

The network was launched at a congress in Barcelona earlier this month.

Jaana Puukkaa, public relations manager at Turku University, thought that cities and universities had a lot to offer each other.

She said:"There is a lot of hidden knowledge within universities that does not actually penetrate regional planning.

"Often city planners are doing this work on their own, but there might be specific research already done so they do not have to reinvent the wheel."

The network plans to offer training in regional development, produce publications, publicise best practice, organise biannual conferences and carry out applied research on demand.

The Univercities network is a response to the demands being made on universities to act as motors of regional development.

Valdiodio Ndiaye, director of the Ecole Normale Superieure at Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University, believed the need for greater coordination between the university and city council was especially urgent in Dakar.

In 1996, responsibilities for local services such as health, education, housing and transport were devolved to Senegal's local councils.

New responsibilities and limited resources mean the city authorities have a great need for university expertise.

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