In this article, we discuss a university-community partnership that had broad goals to promote social, economic, educational and cultural links between the university and people living, working or studying in Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, with particular emphasis on engaging with disadvantaged and marginalised communities who had limited contact with the university. This population could potentially benefit from having access to the educational, research, employment and infrastructure opportunities available at the university. Known as the Carlton Tripartite Partnership, it involved the University of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne and the Carlton Local Agencies Network (CLAN), an affiliation of local community-based organisations. At the time of writing, the partnership is faltering, after a period of encouraging consolidation. Key objectives of the partnership were strongly aligned with the university’s core activities (research and teaching), but also included aims that appealed to its civic obligations. In particular, this involved creating local employment opportunities and facilitating access to university infrastructure. These diverse objectives reflected incongruent, but not incompatible, aims for the partnership and some proved difficult to achieve. While the partnership reflected the potential of inter-sectoral collaborations and the value of making the university’s diverse resources available to impoverished communities, it encountered notable limitations. Insights from partnership activities are important to consider because they suggest the ways in which the value of universities as civic institutions that generate public benefits is being eroded through the influence of neoliberal policies.