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Universities as financing vehicles of (sub)urbanization: the development of university towns in Shanghai

Authors: Jie Shen*,
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: urbanization; universities; financialization; university towns; China
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Existing literature on the widespread of university town projects in China highlights local governments as the key driver, whereas the role of universities has been adequately studied. This study examines the dynamics of university towns by focusing on the role of universities in China’s urbanization. Based on statistical data, the spatial expansion of universities is recognized as an integral component of capital accumulation strategy at the interface of higher education and urbanization. An empirical study of Shanghai further details the land-tuition-leverage strategy, the financialization of universities and the final government bailouts. In the processes, universities functioned more as a financing vehicle for (sub)urban development but less as a driver of innovation. Despite commonalities with recent university-led urban development in the Global North, the financialization of universities in China does not result from the dominance of financial capital but a temporary strategy of the state.

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