Dean Forbes



Public Policy Scholar Project

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

5 August-31 October 2013

Professor Dean Forbes

Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor, School of International Studies

Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International & Communities) and Vice President

Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

This project furthers my work on cities and universities in building knowledge economies both locally and internationally. The current focus is on recent trends in the USA, with particular attention to the key east coast cities and the universities connected to them. This research is being undertaken within the Comparative Urban Studies Project at the Wilson Center.


The origins of the contemporary knowledge city go back to the 1950s. In her book Cities of Knowledge, Margaret O’Mara (2005) observed that:

‘In the second half of the twentieth century, a new and quintessentially American type of community emerged in the United States: the city of knowledge. These places were engines of scientific production, filled with high-tech industries, homes for scientific workers and their families, with research universities at their heart…Magnets for high-skilled workers and highly productive industries, cities of knowledge are, in fact, the ultimate post-industrial city.’

Since the 1990s Lester Thurow, Robert Reich, and others, have argued the international competitiveness of countries increasingly depends on the capacity to enhance the knowledge intensive sectors of the economy. 

Growing numbers of cities and urban regions target knowledge industries, and at the same time seek to enhance the research, technology, intellectual property, education, and urban amenity features of the city. The creativity of cities is pivotal to their economic success. Universities are important to knowledge-based economies because of their focus on education and human resources development, contribution to innovation and technological change, and the cultural adaptation processes facilitated by campus communities.

As the global economy becomes more integrated, cities and universities have become more globally strategic and competitive. They share an interest in becoming expanding nodes in the cultural circuit of capital and the global knowledge economy, and these interests, while not identical, intersect in significant ways. Cities and universities seek competitive advantages by establishing effective, but sometimes troubled, local and international alliances.


The first two case studies examined university international branch campuses. In the context of research on Adelaide’s ‘university city’ strategy I focused on the development of a Carnegie Mellon University campus in the city (Forbes 2014). I followed this while at the Wilson Center with an investigation of the controversial establishment of the Yale-NUS College in Singapore. I was able to draw on earlier work I had undertaken on Singapore’s ‘university city’ aspirations (Forbes and Cutler 2006).

In the third and fourth case studies I concentrated on how American universities have engaged locally. In Washington DC I have been exploring how universities (eg Virginia Tech) have engaged with the African-American community, for example through work undertaken on U Street and its various communities. In contrast, I have also been interested in Michael Bloomberg’s co-optation of universities (eg Cornell and Technion) and the case of New York.  

I have a comparative perspective on these issues, drawing on both my Australian and Asian (Singapore, and some Chinese cities) experience. In 2014 I am planning to complete a book on knowledge cities that will include case studies from the US, Australia and Pacific Asia.


Between 2000 and 2013 I was Vice President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University. My portfolio responsibilities included the University’s internationalisation strategy and its domestic and international community engagement program. Working closely with federal, state and municipal governments provided an insider’s perspective on city-university collaboration, both in terms of international strategies (eg attracting international students; migration; public diplomacy) and on innovation, advanced manufacturing (eg the Tonsley Park Redevelopment, adjacent to the University), and traded services strategies.

I previously held positions at The Australian National University; Monash University; the University of Papua New Guinea; AusAID; and the Australian Institute of Urban Studies.

My academic focus has been on the Asian cities of the Pacific Rim, especially in Indonesia, Vietnam and China. Building on this background I have published research on knowledge strategies in Singapore (Forbes and Cutler 2006) and Adelaide (Forbes 2009; 2014). My most recent major publication in this field is a book co-edited with Stephen Hamnett titled Planning Asian Cities: Risks and Resilience (Routledge, London, 2011).


1.    Florida, Richard 2005 The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, HarperCollins, New York.

2.    Forbes, Dean 2014 ‘International university campuses and the knowledge economy: the university city project in Adelaide’ Global Policy Journal, forthcoming.

3.    Forbes, Dean 2011 ‘Responses of educational institutions: handling student growth and diversity’ in Dorothy Davis and Bruce Mackintosh (eds) 2011 Making a Difference: Australian International Education, UNSW Press, Sydney, pp 228-235.

4.    Forbes, Dean 2009 ‘Australia’s knowledge cities: work in progress’ Presentation to a session on Creating Australia’s First Global Education City: Boston of the Southern Hemisphere. Higher Education Congress, Sydney, 24-25 March 2009. <>

5.    Forbes, Dean and Cecile Cutler 2006 “The global knowledge economy, the university and the Southeast Asian city” in Wong Tai-chee and Brian Shaw (eds) Challenging Sustainability: Urban Development and Change in Southeast Asia, Marshall Cavendish Academic, Singapore, pp 175-196.

6.    Hamnett, Stephen and Dean Forbes (eds) 2011 Planning Asian Cities: Risks and Resilience, Routledge, London.

7.    O’Mara, Margaret Pugh 2005 Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.