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Why are values increasingly important for universities?

Universities today face tremendous complexity and uncertainty. This is due to the increasingly varied expectations of internal and more numerous and diverse external stakeholders, the changing dynamics of national and international politics, increased competition for students and funding, challenges arising from internationalisation, and the rapid evolution of technology and communication.

These challenges affect universities across the globe, regardless of their traditions, cultures, styles of operating, and missions. They impact both traditional collegial models in which academics are most influential as well as universities that are more centrally led.

Values have been at the heart of universities since their formation and remain an essential tool in dealing with these challenges, offering universities guidance for their conduct and decision-making. Whether it is the traditional and more fundamental values of autonomy and academic freedom, social responsibility toward their community, or other values specific to institutional missions, values are crucial to helping universities understand and identify themselves and communicate that identity and mission to stakeholders.

To create and maintain public trust in universities amid today’s complexity and uncertainty, universities need to define their values explicitly, clearly communicate them to staff, students, and stakeholders, and demonstrate that their values inform practice and decision-making.