Universities and Cities

This project is concerned with driving forward analysis and debate on the role of Universities in regional cities. 

WMREDI is acting as the hub of a network of universities in major regional or core cities in the UK (notably Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Newcastle and Sheffield). It will involve collaboration with the Civic University Network hub based in Sheffield Hallam University, which will provide links a diverse set of 60 universities and cities 60 that are jointly preparing Civic University Agreements with local partners. By combining the experience of a group of leading civic universities and the expertise of partners on public engagement and working with the community sector, the research team will: 

  • Gather and systematise new evidence, including tools and innovative good practice, vital if universities are to respond sensitively to the needs of civic partners and provide effective support for social and economic recovery in their local city/region. 
  • Build and share expertise in the design/delivery of collaborative multi-stakeholder programmes and actions that address immediate and medium-term social and economic implications (e.g. business disruption, youth unemployment, compounded disadvantage) at systemic, place-based and individual levels.
  • Suggest pathways to resilience, especially for vulnerable groups and communities, drawing on research insights to help the development of recovery strategies for towns/cities/regions.
  • Support civic partners to engage with communities in the prioritisation of social and economic policy actions, building and maintaining the trust needed for a safe and cohesive exit and recovery period from Covid-19.


Research Theme 5

Regional Society and Communities


  • Analyse how universities are working with partners to identify and map needs at city and regional levels and mobilising expertise in supporting civic partners to find solutions.
  • Examine how the uneven distribution of research expertise and resources, coupled with financial pressures, might further disadvantage ‘left behind places’ and consider what steps could be taken by the university sector and government to support the recovery process in these localities. 
  • Develop and roll out tools that universities, local authorities/agencies and civic partners at metropolitan/neighbourhood levels can use to link user need(s) with university capability.  

Virtual workshops will facilitate sharing experience, expertise and ideas that can help cities and local communities create resilient pathways to recovery and maximising the reach of the research to the whole of the UK. The research will generate knowledge about Covid-19 responses at local level not currently available to national policymakers. As well as informing the recovery process, its findings will inform discussion about the role of higher education in the ‘levelling-up’ agenda espoused by the UK government.


Project lead contact details: 

Professor John Goddard

Project support contact details: 

Matthew Patterson, Administrative Assistant, City-REDI / WMREDI 


Publications and Reports

A Guide to preparing Civic University Agreements
UPP Foundation, July 2019

Truly Civic: Strengthening the Connection Between Universities and Their Places
UPP Foundation Civic University Commission, February 2019

Re-Inventing the Civic University, Nesta
Professor John Goddard, September 2009

CiviCon21 | The Contribution of Universities to Inclusive Regional Growth with Professor Simon Collinson
CiviCon21 | Civic Universities Around the World with Professor John Goddard

WMREDI is funded by Research England and the WMREDI partnership

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