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The cultural role of universities in the community: Revisiting the university - community debate

Lookup NU author(s): Paul Chatterton


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In this paper the interaction between the university and the community is addressed. Whilst previous work has concentrated on the economic roles of universities in the community, insufficient attention has been paid to their cultural roles. Drawing upon fieldwork undertaken in Bristol, United Kingdom, I highlight a number of cultural roles which universities undertake in the community. In particular I outline the historical development of the cultural role of the university through a shift from the high-cultural role of the elite university to a broader cultural role for the contemporary mass university. A new environment for universities, including the declining influence of national structures, the interplay of processes of localisation and globalisation, and the emergence of new regional governance structures in Britain, is reshaping the cultural relationship between the university and the community and is opening up new possibilities for the creation of a closer, and more equal, relationship between them. This in turn could open up new possibilities for a greater sense of a shared public culture and address the evolving idea of the university. However, concerns are raised in relation to how these are affected by the introduction of globalisation practices and discourses into the university.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chatterton P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2000

Volume: 32

Issue: 1

Pages: 165-181

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Pion Ltd.


DOI: 10.1068/a3243


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