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31st Anniversary of the Magna Charta Universitatum - Introduction

University freedom and responsibilities: responding to the challenges of the future Hamilton, Canada - 16-17 October 2019

Introductory statement:

Academic freedom has long been understood as a fundamental prerequisite for the work of universities as they undertake research, and evaluate and share knowledge as part of their broader responsibility and obligations to society. Historically, the degree of freedom enjoyed within the academy has been broadly proportional to the vitality of freedom of expression and enquiry prevailing in societies at large. In recent years, however, there has been a recognition that social and economic inequities are reflected and even perpetuated by power imbalances within the university, and the consequence of this has been to call into question the apparently self-evident value of absolute freedom of expression on university campuses: is the academy equally free for all its members, and if not, what is the enduring educational value of academic freedom?

Alongside questions of this sort, the responsibilities that universities bear, and the expectations which society has of universities, are becoming more various and complex. These derive from local economic and social agendas as well as from admirable commitments on the global scale, such as the UN’s sustainable development goals. Navigating this landscape of freedom, autonomy, equity and responsibility is complex and challenging for universities across the globe and unites our institutions as we seek to uphold our values, and contribute positively and meaningfully to the societies we seek to serve.

This conference addresses these critically important issues in a way that will stimulate discussion and enable active engagement by participants in a menu of workshop sessions. It will do so in association with Universities Canada and global associations including the International Association of Universities and Scholars at Risk. The outputs of the conference will not only be of benefit to participants and their universities but will also inform the development of a new Magna Charta Universitatum to reflect the changes and challenges which universities are facing.

The conference is for rectors, presidents, senior administrators, faculty and students and representatives of international higher education associations.

Published on 18 February 2019