Migration, diasporas and planning for cosmopolitan urbanity in smaller municipalities in the UK and Germany August 2019 - June 2020


As part of Oxford University’s new partnership with four Berlin universities, COMPAS is working with TU Berlin on a knowledge exchange project on the dynamics of integration and inclusion in smaller towns and municipalities in the UK and Germany.

Whilst there is growing interest in the role of the local level in integration and inclusion, this has mainly focussed on larger cities with those considered to be ‘super-diverse’ often engaging in wider Europe wide networks to share best practice. This growing gap between ‘cosmopolitan’ cities and smaller cities is the focus of this project, which brings together researchers, policy makers and practitioners from the UK and Germany.

The project aims to identify the needs, opportunities and traps of the urban governance of migration, inclusion, and cohesion and to find ways for smaller cities to develop their own strategies in this field.

A workshop hosted by TU Berlin in September 2019 launched the project and brought together representatives from UK and German smaller cities alongside academic researchers. Officials from Luton, Barnsley and Cottbus highlighted their specific contexts and this was contrasted with findings from both research and networks of peer learning between cities. A further workshop will be held in Oxford in Spring 2020.




There is an increasing perception that cosmopolitan cities (those with a high degree of internal diversity and a great variety of incoming flows) are able to govern their migration-related diversity and this supposition is often juxtaposed with those cities that show are either smaller or show a more mono-ethnic structure (or both) which may (with some notable exceptions) tend to fend off newcomers. There is the risk that the cities with less experience in the urban governance of migration will miss the connection with the trend of proactive agency of the cosmopolitan cities. In the UK, the Centre for Towns has identified this phenomenon, and the Institute for Public Policy Research’s local migration panel on the northern English town of Corby has demonstrated how even closely planned economic development can falter if the impacts of migration are not sufficiently included.

There has always been a complicated relationship between the nation-states and the municipalities since the 2000s, with no clear competences, not even on the side of the EU (Penninx and Garcés-Mascaenas 2018, Bendel 2018). Often the local scale had to rely on area-based and somewhat pragmatic solutions for the handling of contested issues such as the integration of refugees into the housing market and has shown less restrictive policies (Caponio 2014). Since the early 2000s, many cities became engaged into the different city networks (such as Eurocities, Intercultural cities, the European Integration Network and many more) as a way of facilitating peer learning on the issues, while others remained bound to their “traditional”, somewhat sedentary, cosmos of urban planning/policies. Similar to the conceptualization of ethnicity as dynamic, multifaceted and socially constructed, cities started to construct “migration-related diversity profiles”.

By now there is the risk, that some cities – those with a minor presence of immigrants and a minor experience in the steering of flows, will be disadvantaged because they are less able to cope with a more fluid society and the way in which a rapid pace of demographic change can in fact disproportionately hit smaller municipalities. The ability to select the future citizens turns out to be key for the regeneration of cities and the ability to understand integration processes, the way that they are interconnected, occur throughout society and are mostly felt at the local level (Spencer and Charseley 2016) is vital to the successful marriage between attraction strategies linked to migration and the translation of these into successful and cohesive communities. Many of the traditional state-run institutions such as museums and libraries on the local and regional level, have to find innovative ways to address the changing audience with new projects and programs (Bertelsmann 2018). As field research in Brandenburg shows, the involvement of the local population into migration-related activities pushes back xenophobic outbursts and populistic parties.

This project starts from this analysis of a perceived growing cleavage between ‘cosmopolitan’ cities and smaller cities with a more traditional planning/municipal policies system and the extent to which smaller cities differ in their needs and type of delivery, or the extent to which this perceived difference is based on a lack of capacity or planning. It aims to identify the needs, opportunities and traps of the urban governance of migration and inclusion as well as cohesion. The focus is on the selection and systematization of planning documents, planning activities and approaches in urban planning and policy development in relation to integration that could be helpful to allow the smaller cities to develop own strategies in this field. Special emphasis is given to the role of migration-related non-state actors such as “sanctuary cities”, “Seebrücke, but also the “welcoming Europe”.


The project is a Knowledge Exchange initiative which utilises the Global Exchange approach to Knowledge Exchange


Planning for migrant integration and inclusion in smaller municipalities
Other Publications | Jacqueline Broadhead & Prof. Dr. Felicitas Hillmann | 2021