Our History

Whilst the Urban Studies Foundation was officially incorporated as a charity in 2008, its historical origins within the Urban Studies Journal emerged much earlier. The following introduction to the history of both organisations was originally written in 2016 by Professor Ronan Paddison (1945–2019), but has since been updated to reflect more recent changes.

History of the Urban Studies Foundation

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 seedcorn 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 USF 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, 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. By 2015, plans to internationalise the Trustee membership were agreed, accompanied by proposals that the number of Glasgow-based trustees also be significantly reduced.

The constitutional shifts of this period were accompanied by the extension of the Foundation’s funding projects so that they would later 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 then 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. In 2016 the USF took the decision to focus its funding on three core grant-funding schemes: the International Fellowships, Seminar Series Awards and Postdoctoral Research Fellowships.

Together, these funding programmes have been pivotal to the Foundation’s global vision and its transformation into a renowned supporter of innovative urban studies scholarship. Today the USF appoints Trustees and awards funding on a fully international scale, financing research investment around the world. We have an alumni of well over one hundred individual awardees, and continue to grow annually in our organisational experience, ambition and reach.

History of the Urban Studies Journal

The Urban Studies Journal (USJ), for which the USF is a parent, was founded in 1963 with the first issue appearing in May 1964. As noted an editorial for the journal on its 50th anniversary in 2013, it originated with the creation of what was then an innovative research department in the University of Glasgow – the Department of Social and Economic Research. Since those early days, when it largely focused on urban and regional policy within a UK context, the journal has now become a leading outlet for truly global inter-disciplinary urban and regional research (a shift already occurring before the end of the 1960s), while also undergoing significant changes at the level of constitution and governance. Reflecting its origins as a research centre with a distinct policy orientation – and the geographically narrower world in which much urban research was then conducted and often disseminated – the initial Editorial Advisory Committee (sixteen individuals) were all from the UK with more than a third of the non-editorial members from policy research or urban practitioner worlds. By 2013, however, a then recently revised editorial committee structure comprised a total of twenty-five individuals, the majority of whom were drawn from beyond the UK, with none of them employed directly in a practitioner environment. These changes attest to the way that urban research and debates within the journal have become increasingly globalised on the one hand, and more critical in relation to urban policy on the other.

USJ Vol 1 No1 1963 USJ Vol 30 No 1 USJ Vol 50 No 1

In its constitution, the journal was formed as a limited company in January 2007. The current structure of the Board is comprised of four Managing Editors (MEs), with each taking turns as Editor in Chief (EiC) on an annual basis. The present Managing Editors (in 2023) are Professors Jon Bannister, Andrew Cumbers, Yingling Fan and Tony O’Sullivan. In addition there are twenty-two further editors and corresponding editors around the world responsible for different aspects and streams of the USJ’s published output. The journal’s editors and operations are ably supported by an administrative team of four, managed by USJ Editorial Assistant Ruth Harkin. You may read more about the editorial board and the journal’s operations on the USJ Website.

It should be underlined here that, while the USF is legally ‘the parent’ of the USJ – with USF Trustees having oversight of USJ polices, procedure and overall well-being – in practice the USF delegates all operational practice and strategic decision-making (as well as personnel decisions) to the Managing Editors of the journal. A close relationship of trust and reciprocity has hence been the hallmark of relations between the USF and the USJ, and this relationship is underlined by an independence agreement between the two organisations. As part of this arrangement it is customary for the USJ Editor-in-Chief to attend USF Board meetings as a non-voting attendee, where they also present the annual USJ Business Plan for oversight and approval by the USF Board of Trustees.