News & events


Anti-urbanism and American Higher Education

17 August 2018
12:30 - 13:30

Professor Steven Diner, Former Chancellor, Rutgers University-Newark

Chair and Discussant:

Professor Leslie Bank, EPD

Date: 17 August 2018   
Time: 12:30 – 13:30 
Venues: Pretoria, Durban, PE and Cape Town

Until the end of World War II, college education in the United States was viewed largely as a means of building character in young men and later on in young women as well. It was widely believed that cities provided a poor location for colleges because they contained numerous corrupting influences, but also because proximity to “nature” was critical to character development. Some institutions, like Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, moved several times to the edge of the city to minimize urban influences. Although public institutions like City College of New York enrolled ever larger numbers of students, professors and higher education leaders struggled to overcome what they saw as the enormous disadvantage these students faced having to go home to their immigrant/working class families after class, undermining what they were taught during the day. 

Universities in cities also faced a continuing challenge in their efforts to expand and to transform their neighborhoods into upper middle class residential areas, and in the process displacing lower income and minority residents. During the urban crisis of the 1960s and 1970s, higher education institutions in cities faced great pressure from government officials and civic leaders to use their intellectual and financial resources to address local social problem. A dramatic change occurred at the start of the twenty-first century, when universities in cities became extremely desirable places for middle class students to attend college.

Pretoria: HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Contact: Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

Cape Town:
HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. Contact: Carmen Erasmus, Tel: (021) 466 7827, e-mail:

  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001. Contact: Ridhwaan Khan, Tel: (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786, e-mail:

Port Elizabeth:
1st Floor East Wing, Building 1 Ascot Office Park, Corner Conyngham & Ascot Roads, Greenacres, Port Elizabeth 6001. Contact: Nomfanelo Plaatjie, email: or 041 393 9500.

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST

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