Two steps forward, one step back: Achievements and limitations of university-community partnerships in addressing neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage

Main Article Content

Deborah Warr
Richard Williams


This article discusses a partnership initiative that involved a major Australian research university (University of Melbourne), a local government and a network of local community service organisations. The partnership projects aimed to promote public access to university infrastructure for poor and marginalised residents, enhance the local value of research and teaching activities, and create employment opportunities. The article draws on an evaluation of the partnership, which focused on four keynote projects. It found that the partnership appeared to achieve positive outcomes for residents but was limited by tensions associated with the university’s ambivalent commitment to the value of such partnerships. These tensions remained difficult to resolve because they signalled present contestation over the foundational values of contemporary public universities.

Keywords: university-community partnerships, neoliberalism, neighbourhoods, community development

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biography

Deborah Warr, University of Melbourne

Deborah Warr is an ARC Future Fellow and leads the ‘Social Infrastructure and Community Capacity’ programme in the McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, Centre for Health Inequalities, Melbourne School Population and Global Health . She has been at the University of Melbourne since 2001. Over this time, her research has focused on settings of place-based disadvantage and includes inquiry-based, evaluation and community driven projects. This work considers the area effects of poverty and place-based disadvantage for health-related outcomes, socio-spatial polarisation and fragmentation in urban environments, associations between place and access to social capital and vulnerability to social exclusion, and the implications of neighbourhood stigma.