Universities as social and cultural infrastructure

The British Academy
Number of pages


This publication forms part of the British Academy’s work on social and cultural infrastructure, Valuing People, Places and Spaces, which is based around the rubric of ‘creating, supporting and enhancing social and cultural infrastructure to improve and sustain society’.

One aspect of this work focuses on exploring social and cultural infrastructure in relation to different sectors and institutions via a series of roundtables – the first of which was a roundtable on universities as social and cultural infrastructure held in October 2023. The event brought together a wide range of experts and practitioners, including academics, higher education managers and professionals, and representatives of think tanks and other policy organisations.

The discussion was framed around the following questions:

  • How do universities, and the different constituencies within them, contribute to social and cultural infrastructure, and how can this contribution be articulated, measured and evidenced?
  • How can universities work with other institutions to strengthen social and cultural infrastructure, and what wider value to society and communities would this have?

This publication summarises the key themes to emerge from the discussion. These themes comprised: change over time; localities and geographies; local partnerships; bridges between constituencies; capacity and career structures in universities; continuity and scale of funding; and, the REF and other incentives and drivers.

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