How do local communities view their local universities, and do they recognise the value that they bring both to the local community, and to the local economy. This article looks particularly at the University of Southampton, and the University of Southampton Solent.

That sentiment may be shared by many in the communities in which universities are located. But if the institutions disappeared, how much of a loss would it be to those cities? David Matthews weighs the benefits of having a higher education establishment on the doorstep

Imagine waking up during term-time in 2014 on Portswood Road, one of the main student-housing drags in Southampton. Stepping outside, you find the road strangely deserted – not a student to be seen. Walking south along quieter streets, you find a huge expanse of grass where Southampton Solent University’s East Park Terrace building once stood. By the docks, the National Oceanography Centre – the University of Southampton’s research centre for the study of ocean and earth sciences – is now just a slab of wet concrete. Perplexed, you hop on a bus to the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus, but the site opposite Southampton Common is just an empty space. Southampton’s two universities have mysteriously disappeared.

This is not a realistic prospect, of course: both the University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University recorded healthy financial surpluses in 2009-10. But at a time when the value of universities is being widely scrutinised and discussed, it is a novel way to consider their impact on and relationship with the local community. If the two universities were to vanish from the city, what would be lost?

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