In Canada, as elsewhere, the university is a centre for research and teaching, supported in part by public funds. It is also an employer, a producer of images, a subject of rankings, a real estate owner, a generator of revenues, and a hub in global networks of value and aspiration. But how does a university work? What exactly does it do? What are the powers and pressures, the practices and networks that constitute contemporary university worlds?

An interdisciplinary team of faculty and students at the University of Toronto, we seek to discover the many worlds of our own institution. We foreground the everyday experience of people who work or study in different corners of the institution, who live in its shadow, or respond to its public face, a project we position firmly in the humanities and social sciences.

Our methods including ethnography, archival research, and surveys. We draw on our combined disciplinary strengths in anthropology, socio­legal studies, human geography, history, women and gender studies, and international development.

The University of Toronto is a rich site for investigation because it is both massive and diverse. Across its three campuses, its professional schools, and relatively autonomous faculties and colleges, it covers a spectrum of university types, from elite research hub to mass undergraduate education. It is affected by the same material pressures that shape other Canadian universities, namely stagnation or withdrawal of state funding, mass recruitment of international students and an urgent search for donor funds to meet budget shortfalls.

Its students, and its faculty, staff and neighbours are also extraordinarily heterogeneous. St. George is the oldest and largest campus situated in the city’s downtown area. UT Scarborough and UT Mississauga are situated in suburban areas of high recent immigration with a student body comprised mainly of local and international students of colour. Equity is a complex challenge, and a lively front of student mobilization.

Detailed Project Description

University Worlds Bibiography