More than half the population of the world is now living in urban habitats. Asia is the fastest growing region in urbanisation. In the past decade, nearly half a billion Asians have moved to urban habitations, and the trend continues. Cities and towns are centres of economic activity; they produce opportunities for livelihoods; they are educational and artistic hubs; they create cosmopolitan living spaces. Cities are also exclusionary; urban poverty is the fastest growing phenomenon, even in small and medium towns; youth with limited skills are finding themselves under-employed in cities; access to basic services of water, sanitation and housing for all the city-dwellers is far from reality. It is in this milieu that institutions of education (especially higher education) can support a process of making cities inclusive for all. Municipalities, local governments, mayors and councilors are in search of ideas and capacities that can transform cities into exciting spaces for all citizens.
What needs to happen to realise this dream of inclusive cities? What contributions can educational institutions make? How can the enormous resources of HEIs be mobilised towards this vision of inclusive cities?
These questions frame the content that we want to focus on for the 5′th Global Dialogue on Community-University Engagement, what has become known as the ‘Big Tent’ statements.