The impetus for universities to engage – to reach out, share, and exchange knowledge – with the communities around them is not a new phenomenon, but one that has gathered salience and speed in recent years (Watson, 2007; Hall, 2009; Davis, 2016). University engagement takes place in a range of dimensions within the global-national-regional-local spectrum (Benneworth et al, 2009; Goddard, 2009). This comparative study of six public universities in England and Ontario, Canada focuses on engagement with local communities. By analysing both institutional histories and universities’ contemporary strategic plans, the study shows that understanding universities’ foundations offers important insights into their current levels of engagement with their local communities. Using the local level as a lens not only demonstrates connections between a university’s past and its present, but also offers a counterweight to the prevailing dominance in higher education policy and literature of international and global factors.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.