Today more than 70% of Europe’s citizens live in cities, which makes European Union one of the most urbanised areas in the world. While these areas are considered to be the engines of European economy with extensive job opportunities, and the educated population they attract, they are also places where social and environmental challenges are concentrated, concerning mobility, sustainable land and energy use, inclusion of migrants, digital transformation and poverty. Without doubt, universities hold great potential to act as key actors in fostering dialogue among regional stakeholders to initiate and sustain joint actions towards creation of smart and sustainable cities. However, despite efforts, urban engagement is not an inherent component of HE systems, nor are they a part of ongoing academic programs. HEIs lack relevant strategies, tools, resources, and knowledge to apply to engage in city initiatives.
Whereas, it is crucial to expand the bottom up support for the cities to co-develop, test and implement the solutions, and thus consolidate efforts. HEIs can support anchoring innovation by raising interest in the urban areas they are based in, offer resources, and facilitate change. HEIs should also exploit cities as living labs incorporating the open spaces, institutions, and local community in their research and teaching programs.
To support this change, UCITYLAB will,
1. increase the knowledge and understanding of HEIs in establishing urban partnerships
2. support societal relevance of the HEI curriculum and enhance ties with civic community
3. develop relevant skills set among students by exposing them to the real-life societal problems
4. strengthen links among the stakeholders of urban community, including HEIs, to facilitate knowledge exchange and better flow of resources for urban development
5. widely disseminate results to foster adoption of city engagement practices in European HEIs