To choose to go local

November 15, 1996

In a trailer for a forthcoming special issue of Demos, Geoff Mulgan ("Home View", THES, November 1) signals the choice before universities to go global or local. He suggests that the challenge is not to choose but to find ways " to combine local roots and global connections". However, finding the combinations is not the problem.

Some universities, especially my own, are well on the road to discovering innovative ways to reorient research capacity to assist local businesses in developing global competitive advantage.

Universities today are the live wire that connects the local with the global. The problem is not one of finding connections but of coordinating the connections for strategic purposes. But this is a matter of urban governance. Today the global scape is changing from national competition to city and regional competition. To succeed cities and their regions need to transform themselves into strategic business organisations. For this to happen they have to organise themselves at the highest level in authoritative (and preferably also democratic) partnerships of key players, the universities included.

This is happening. But the experience with such partnerships (including that of the Sheffield City Liaison Group) is patchy and inconclusive. There are still too many conflicting lines of authority and claims upon solidarity that undermine the effort. Not the least of these is a national government that does not want to let go.

Ankie Hoogvelt Department of sociological studies, Sheffield University.

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