The twelfth symposium in September 2014 has focused on universities as key actors in the global knowledge economy. Universities are centers of research, teaching and expertise with significant economic, social and cultural impacts at different geographical scales. They attract creative minds and intellectuals from around the globe, provide graduates and innovations for the economy and sustain diverse international linkages that make them important sites of cultural encounter and exchange. Conversely, a university is affected by the political, social, and economic conditions of its urban and regional location. This symposium has brought together scholars from different disciplines and countries, who are studying the university, in order to explore the pivotal question how a greater awareness of the histories, geographies and practices of universities can shape current debates about their future.