Skip Navigation

Call for Papers - 'Universities in Crisis'

Editors: Meric S. Gertler, Mia Gray and Susan Christopherson

Universities have long been recognized for their important contributions to the long-term economic prosperity and wellbeing of cities and regions. Much attention has been paid to their role as generators of new knowledge that can subsequently be mobilized by economic actors in the wider society, through mechanisms of technology transfer – patenting, licensing and sale of intellectual property, and the generation of knowledge-based start-up companies spun off by university faculty, students and recent graduates. More recently, universities have come to be appreciated for the broader economic importance of their traditional role as producers of well-educated human capital – whose collective impact in this regard likely far outstrips the economic value related to direct knowledge-transfer and commercialization. Universities have also been hailed as key actors in attracting and retaining highly skilled ‘talent’ in the form of scholars, post-doctoral fellows and students, and for exerting a longer-term stabilizing influence on local and regional economies.

Following the global economic crisis beginning in 2008, the post secondary education sector has sustained a series of major shocks in one country and region after another. While all segments of this sector – public and private – have been affected, the deepest and most sustained impacts have been felt by publicly supported and assisted universities. Public sector austerity has led to significant reductions in government funding for universities’ operations. Downturns in global financial markets have reduced payouts from institutional endowments and undermined the solvency of universities’ defined-benefit pension or superannuation plans, putting a further squeeze on operating budgets. At the same time, demand for university places has increased in response to high levels of youth unemployment and an uncertain labour market. These developments have induced universities in many public systems to pursue a range of revenue-generating strategies. For example, some have increased tuition fees dramatically, while others have begun to recruit students more aggressively within the global marketplace.

This special issue of the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society will explore the nature of the crisis currently confronting universities and its consequences for the cities, regions and nation-states in which they are situated. How have these challenges affected the ability of universities to contribute to the dynamism and long-term development of their host economies? To what extent and in what ways has the fiscal crisis in postsecondary education reshaped the nature of universities’ social and economic impact and mission? How are the current dynamics differentially impacting the public and private segments of higher education systems, and what are the consequences of this? How have these various trends played out in different nations, regions, and public jurisdictions? What creative responses have been developed to respond to these challenges effectively?

We invite authors to submit an abstract of approximately 500 words outlining potential contributions to this special issue. Abstracts should be sent to Angela Brennan at by 7th January 2013. Authors will be invited to submit papers following review of submitted abstracts by the editors of this special issue. Full papers will need to be submitted by 1st June 2013.