TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

Following three years of planning, the University of Toronto has announced the creation of the School of Cities, an interdisciplinary research institute set to launch on July 1.

The purpose of the School of Cities is to approach urban-related issues from a variety of perspectives across university disciplines; these issues include social inequality, environmental concerns, and growing populations, among others.

Consultations for the school began in January 2017, with the official proposal to establish the school passed by the Faculty of Arts & Science Council on March 21. The school will be based out of the GTA, tackling local concerns, but it hopes to also address global urban issues.

While the Faculty of Arts & Science is leading the School of Cities development — holding primary responsibility for the budget and administration — the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, Rotman School of Management, UTM, and UTSC are also involved.  In addition, 42 programs from the participating faculties and campuses are involved.

The school’s initial budget will be approximately $2 million. Funding will come from the participating faculties, an annual sum from the University Fund, and possible external public and private partnerships.

Shauna Brail, Director of the Urban Studies program and U of T Presidential Advisor on Urban Engagement, told The Varsity that the scale of U of T’s urban research is “in some ways invisible to people outside the university and, in some cases, inside the university.”

“The reason for creating this school is to create this big-tent approach where we have the ability to bring people together from both across the university regardless of their discipline and regardless of their background, training, and place of their main appointment,” continued Brail.

The School is an Extra-Departmental Unit, meaning that it is interdisciplinary in nature and does not offer academic programs or appointments to the faculty that are budgetary. Rather, the proposal states that the school will focus on research partnerships both inside and outside of the university and provide “undergraduate and graduate courses, experiential learning opportunities, and, possibly, graduate collaborative specializations.”

U of T President Meric Gertler said that he sees the school as “a hub in a global network where we will be connecting with scholars and practitioners in other major metropolitan regions around the world, whether it be places like Shanghai or Mumbai or elsewhere.”

The School of Cities is currently in the process of appointing a director. Moving forward, it is looking to expand its international partnerships and increase outreach efforts.

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