New York looks outside the box

As the bids come in to run a new city campus, John Morgan examines the decision to go global

April 21, 2011

Credit: Patti McConville/Alamy
Plant your colours: The Big Apple is open to all comers

Why would a city such as New York, with a clutch of world-leading higher education institutions, invite universities from around the world to run its new science campus?

That is one of the questions raised by the contest to select a university to establish an applied science and engineering campus in the city.

Some of the 18 bids are from overseas institutions, such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the UK's University of Warwick.

US institutions entering the race include Stanford University and the University of Chicago, as well as the city's own Columbia University and New York University.

Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor, calls the campus "an opportunity to increase dramatically our potential for economic growth".

Veronica Lasanowski, research manager and senior analyst at the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, said it appeared that the impetus for the project was coming from New York's business community.

This group may feel the city is "falling behind other American cities in terms of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and, importantly, patents", Ms Lasanowski said. "Building on the expertise of another university well known for engineering might allow the city to harness and capitalise on an already proven model or formula, potentially helping it to make quicker progress."

She added: "A bit like Education City in Doha, presumably (New York's) rationale in welcoming bids, rather than looking to its own universities, is to get the best - and diversify provision - rather than overextending the expertise of in-city universities."

New York University's proposal is to create a Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). The bid comes from a partnership that includes IBM, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto, and the City University of New York.

A spokesman for New York University said that CUSP would be "a multidisciplinary research and applied science institute" aimed at developing the technologies and industries "needed to address the issues facing cities around the globe".

The city aims to choose a winner by the end of 2011.

Ben Wildavsky, author of the The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World, said that if the new campus went to an outside institution, it "might keep some of the excellent universities that are already in New York on their toes. It might also create all sorts of research collaborations."

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