The University of Birmingham was planned, advanced and established with both national and German models of a University in mind. Civic reasons for the planning of the University need to be viewed within a broader motivational context. Even with a strong sense of civic place the University was conceived as a modern University with multiple founding visions. The set-up goals shifted as the size and complexity of the University increased and early ideas of social mission were either restricted or largely absent in practice. The paper examines the nature of the original institutional commitment to the ‘civic’ dimension of the University between 1900 and 1914 and highlights the many tensions that emerged between the growing academic standing of the University and its continued enthusiasm for the City and regional links.