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The death and life of UK universities and the cultural spaces they consume

Carless, Tonia; Troiani, Igea

The death and life of UK universities and the cultural spaces they consume Thumbnail


Tonia Carless
Senior Lecturer in Architecture

Igea Troiani


The shift in focus in UK higher education since Thatcherism from the production of knowledge for civic
betterment to the production and consumption of knowledge by the university for revenue generation
can be read through the social rearrangement of space in the university town or city. A key spatial
reconfiguration emerging from the shift in economic conditions is the collapse of the modern university
as a singular, ideological construct. Like ‘the city’ before it, the modern university has, at its interior,
been reformed into a newly defined, fragmented public–private social space, and, at its exterior, into a
devourer of the space of the local community. This article showcases excerpts from a film made by the
authors entitled The Death and Life of UK Universities – a title inspired by Jane Jacobs’s critique of great
The Death and Life of UK Universities and the Cultural Spaces They Consume 1
American cities. Our film is a cinematic database survey of the changing space of all British universities
which considers this systematic spatial reprogramming of space within the city. The two-year research
project is an audio-visual critique of the way in which neoliberalism, corporatization and commercial
interests have co-opted the space of the British university. Referencing the films of Charlie Chaplin
and Gordon Matta-Clark and the writings of Henri Lefebvre, the film focuses on university cities,
critically observing the rise of university marketing material and the consumption of the city and of
local community life for university student accommodation. We ask: How are UK universities being
spatially reconfigured and what are the consequences?


Carless, T., & Troiani, I. (2021). The death and life of UK universities and the cultural spaces they consume. Architecture_MPS, 19(1), 3-12.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 20, 2020
Online Publication Date Feb 26, 2023
Publication Date Feb 22, 2021
Deposit Date Feb 27, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 27, 2023
Journal Architecture_MPS
Electronic ISSN 2050-9006
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 1
Article Number 1
Pages 3-12
Series Title Socio-Urban Critiques and a New Normal
Series Number 2
Series ISSN 2050-9006
Keywords higher education; university; architecture; neoliberalism; corporatization
Public URL
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