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Report of the Secretary General

Magna Charta Observatory
September 2018

Periodically it is usefully to look at a map, to assess where we are, confirm where we want to end up and take decisions about the best way to get there. This is especially so if we are undertaking the journey for the benefit of others and if the terrain and destination change over time.

The Observatory set its current course in April 2015. What it found then was:

‘The fundamental values set out in the Magna Charta Universitatum remain vital but require evaluation and need to be communicated in a modern way for a more diverse range of universities. Developments in the role of the ‘State’ and the ‘entrepreneurial market economy’ raise a different set of issues.’

Further:

‘‘Autonomy’ is a journey undertaken over a period of time rather than a destination at a single point in time. Its implementation and context are different in different cultures, countries and institutions. While founded and located in Europe, increasing globalisation makes it imperative that the Observatory develops a more global perspective.’

The Observatory’s chosen ‘course’ to its destination to be achieved by 2020, (as foreseen in 2015), included:

‘Growing, becoming more global, engaging more extensively and closely with its signatories, understanding more about how values could have greater impact, providing better services and doing so in a more modern way’.

This year we are starting to see tangible evidence that real progress is being made on the journey.

Following a series of workshops in different parts of the world since 2015, the Living Values project was prepared and has this year been piloted in 10 universities in 9 different countries. The guidance and ‘tool kit’ is now freely available on the MCO website for all universities and specific support will be available from the MCO for institutions wishing to have assistance with its use.

Fundamentally, the Living Values project enables universities to identify whether their espoused values are still appropriate and comprehensive, whether they are being implemented and ‘lived’ effectively and what might be done where there are gaps between the actual and desired situations. The afternoon of the 2018 anniversary conference was devoted to this and more information is on the website.

This important piece of work will enable values to have more impact for universities. But which values?

The Magna Charta Universitatum was first signed in Bologna by 388 universities in 1988. It has stood the test of time well. Its core values of autonomy and academic freedom remain universal and vital. But there are other values which have emerged from the MCO’s workshops which are also necessary if universities are to continue to best serve their stakeholders in their unique locations.

These include integrity, equity, fairness, creativity, innovativeness, excellence, social responsibility and community service, diversity, health and well-being. They don’t replace the core values but operate alongside them to enable the mission of a university to be fulfilled. They are different in different countries and for universities which have different missions.

Hence, to keep the Observatory on track in its modernising and relevance journey it has been agreed that the Magna Charta Universitatum itself is to be reviewed and a new edition launched at our anniversary gathering in Bologna in September 2020. An international review group meets for the first time on 19 September and will consult widely, face to face and virtually. I invite and urge you to respond freely and fully so that the new document can be as good as possible and serve universities for the next 30 years as well as its predecessor has done.

Concerning other evidence of progress, the Observatory’s target of achieving 1000 signatories by 2020 now looks more achievable with over 900 universities now having signed or been accepted to sign the MCU (Up from 776 in 2015). 73 Universities have signed at the ceremony on 18 September 2018 in Salamanca and further 13 have been approved to sign next year. They are all welcome. We thank the University of Salamanca for making such splendid arrangements and congratulate it on its 800th anniversary.

Over the previous year the Observatory has delivered workshops in Kazakhstan, Ghana, Bologna and Paris and contributed to meetings of kindred bodies in Brussels, Berlin and the UK. It has modernised its website so that the Living Values materials can be used efficiently.

To assist with these developments, the University of Bologna has kindly provided an additional half-time member of staff to provide research and administrative support to the Observatory. We welcomed Dr Erika Dalan to that role.

Signatories have been generous with their donations. These are now 7 times more than in 2014 and continue to rise each year. We thank all those who have contributed. But as we want to continue to not have a fee for signing and belonging and we want our on-line resources to be freely available, we still need to raise more and I hope that you will be generous in your support when we write to you following this conference.

All of this would not have been achieved without the insight and support of members of the MCO Council, our experienced group of Ambassadors, the partnerships with our kindred bodies, including particularly the International Association of Universities (IAU), EUCEN (European University Continuing Education Network) and Scholars at Risk, and the involvement of our signatories. On behalf of the Council I would like to thank all of those who have, in any way supported the MCO. The contribution of our Administrator Carla Pazzaglia, our Research and Administrative Assistant Dr. Erika Dalan and the support of the University of Bologna are particularly recognised.

There is, of course, much more to do to enable us to refine and move towards our destination. We look forward to undertaking research to increase our understanding of values and how they might have greater impact for the benefit of our students, universities and societies, more globally in the years to come.

David Lock
Secretary General
September 2018