History of the USF

The Urban Studies Foundation (USF) was established in 2008. The seeds for it were laid in the previous decade, however, when in the 1990s the editors of the journal Urban Studies began to fund urban research within the University of Glasgow through seed corn grants. The scheme was accompanied by a Visiting Fellowships programme which had been initiated even earlier, in the 1980s, providing financial support to urban scholars world-wide who sought to spend a sabbatical collaborating with researchers in cognate fields within the University of Glasgow. Both schemes were successful in attracting leading urban scholars to Glasgow and helping to foster research projects, some of which subsequently attracted additional funding by research councils, as well as generating published outputs. This precedent demonstrated that added value could be created through judicious funding of research, a key lesson and catalyst for what was later to become the Urban Studies Foundation.

The Foundation has since evolved considerably – in effect becoming fully internationalised in terms of its Trustee membership and its funding programme – so that by 2016 it may be considered to have ‘come of age’. In its early years, membership of the Foundation reflected its origins in the University of Glasgow. The Trustees were drawn mainly from what were then the Departments of Urban Studies and Geography and Geomatics – which together accounted for more than two-thirds of the Trustees. They were complemented by three Trustees drawn from outside both the university and Glasgow, a deliberate move reflecting our intentions to support urban research beyond the University of Glasgow. An ‘external’ trustee, Nick Fyfe at the University of Dundee, was Chair of the Foundation before Chris Philo. (The first Chair, David Frisby, of the London School of Economics, had moved from Glasgow to that post following his convenorship of the journal’s Board of Management.) By 2015, plans to internationalise the Trustee membership were agreed, accompanied by proposals that the number of Glasgow-based trustees also be significantly reduced.

These constitutional shifts have been accompanied by the extension of the Foundation’s funding projects so that they have now become fully internationalised in their reach and recognition. Initially, in the first five-year strategy (2008-2012), all of the Foundation’s funded Senior Research Fellowships, Postdoctoral Fellowships and PhD Studentships were located in the University of Glasgow. The first programme funding research outwith the University of Glasgow was the International Fellowship which was initiated in 2011. The aim of the programme was to fund promising early career urban researchers from the global south, giving them the opportunity to work with an established scholar most likely working from a global north institution. In the second five-year strategy (2013-17) the Foundation sought to ensure that, by the end of it, the funding split between ‘investments’ in Glasgow and beyond Glasgow would be circa 50:50. This would be achieved primarily through an extensive programme of Postdoctoral funding to promising urban researchers globally, enabling support in a suitable research environment for up to three years. In 2014 the Foundation also assumed responsibility (from the journal) for funding an Annual Seminar series competition.

Together, these funding programmes have been pivotal to the Foundation’s global vision, underpinning a steady transfer of financial resources allocated to urban research in the University of Glasgow to financing research investment on a significantly wider international basis. However, as a mark of recognition of the special role that the University of Glasgow has played in enabling the creation of the Foundation, the Trust has made a commitment to ‘legacy funding’ of urban research in the university up to 2018 (and beyond) set at between 10% and 20% of annual planned investment spending.

Ronan Paddison, 2016

Former Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of the Urban Studies journal.