The troubling third tier: Small cities, small universities and an ambivalent knowledge economy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Gerry Rafferty composed songs of travel, mobility, excitement, change, disappointment
and loss. Best known for ‘Baker Street’ (1978), the literary-saturated
fictional home of Sherlock Holmes, Rafferty transformed the base for the
super-sleuth into a mournful lament to the loss of love, life and expectations.
Yet beyond his greatest hit, and included on the same album, was ‘City to City’,
conveying the passage from love to work, Glasgow to London. The ambivalence
of both journeys, carried by Caledonian sleeper trains, captured the strain
of managing professional and personal success, noting the cost of both.
Gerry Rafferty was a situated musician and geographically anchored his lyrics.
Yet he did not locate his music in his home. His focus on first-tier cities
like London and the powerfully competing second-tier cities Glasgow and
Edinburgh masked the place of his birth: Paisley. Most famously known as
the location of Glasgow Airport, positioned – significantly – outside of Glasgow,
this small city of 76,000 people is part of the commuter belt but also has
another significant feature. It encloses a university. The University of the West
of Scotland (UWS) maintains campuses in Paisley, Hamilton, Dumfries and
Ayr, alongside the oddly global city location that regional universities seem to
doggedly maintain. For UWS, they maintain a campus in London. For Charles
Sturt University in regional New South Wales, Australia, the institution maintains
a building in Sydney. Third-tier cities, it appears, are rarely branded sufficiently
to gain leverage in the international student market.
While Paisley was invisible in Gerry Rafferty’s musical career, the city has
not forgotten him, but his tribute is ambivalent at best. Gerry Rafferty Drive
has been named after him. It is a suburban street, with conventional housing
and nothing to mark it as distinctive except its signage. Rafferty had to leave
Paisley – physically and imaginatively – to sing his songs of loss, regret, work
and love. Popular culture is rarely drawn to – or draws from – these small cities
and large towns. However universities do have a presence. But like Gerry
Rafferty Drive, that existence is ambivalent, oddly unsatisfying, unstable and
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRegional cultures, economies, and creativity
Subtitle of host publicationInnovating through place in Australia and beyond
EditorsAriella Van Luyn, Eduardo de la Fuente
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780429450290
ISBN (Print)9781138310674
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Advances in Sociology


  • small universities
  • Culture and tourism
  • Cultural landscape
  • creative practice


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