vai al contenuto della pagina vai al menu di navigazione


 University freedoms and responsibilities:

responding to the challenges of the future


XXXI Anniversary of the Magna Charta Universitatum

McMaster University

Hamilton, 16-17 October 2019



Wednesday 16 October 2019

08.30 – 17.30

Welcome address
David Farrar, Interim President, McMaster University

Report on the Magna Charta Observatory

David Lock, Secretary General of the Magna Charta Observatory


Introduction to the Conference

Sijbolt Noorda, President, Magna Charta Observatory


Keynote Address

Free Speech on Campus: A Way Forward

Sigal Ben-Porath, Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Free speech, a staple of modern democracy, has become the focal point for political and cultural forces impacting college campuses. Universities are charged with the mandate to expand the boundaries of knowledge; to disseminate knowledge through teaching and other modes; and to serve the public by training citizens and leaders. But, should all speech be protected in the name of free inquiry at the university? Recent speech controversies on college campuses around the globe expose the difficulty in carving a response in this polarized time. Partly these controversies are another demonstration of the pressures created by movements that test the limits of democratic tolerance, and partly they are the result of changes in youth and campus culture. Recognizing that the struggle over the boundaries of speech on campus is a struggle over core democratic values, and designing a response anchored in the mission of the university, can help alleviate these tensions by creating guidelines that align with the unique role and work of higher education institutions. A democratic framework of inclusive freedom reflects the values of the university in protecting free thought, inquiry and expression, and maintaining a commitment to the dignity of all campus members. This framework can guide university leadership through turbulent times by being responsive to the unique circumstances of contemporary college campuses while remaining committed to the university’s long-standing values.


Keynote Address
Sustainable Cities and Communities

Jim Dunn, Professor, McMaster University

The role and importance of universities in achieving sustainable cities and communities globally is as great as it has ever been and growing. At one time, the role of the university may have been easily compartmentalized simply as an institution of higher learning and research, whose impacts on cities and communities was limited to the education of students and the dissemination of research to improve the social, economic and environmental performance of cities. In recent decades, however, the role of the university in cities and communities has transformed the ‘town and gown’ relationship. Universities now face the challenges and opportunities that come with their responsibilities as land holders, landlords and property developers, as employers and local economic drivers, as civic leaders and community mobilization catalysts, and as environmental stewards. In this presentation, I will explore these challenges and some of the current conditions that make these responsibilities are challenging to discharge. Financialization of land and housing;  the increasing importance and sometimes dominance of universities in the local economy, increasing expectations of public accountability alongside declining public funding, and the acute urgency of environmental risks all present significant challenges for the future of the social contract between universities and cities and communities – both locally and globally.


11.30; 14.00; 16.00
Workshop sessions

There will be three parallel sessions, each lasting 90 minutes, during which, for each time slot, there will be a choice from three parallel workshops.

Workshops – Session 1 

Workshop 1.1

Students and Sustainability
Facilitator:    Quinn Runkle, Director of Education, Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK), United Kingdom

Recent research shows that 91% of students say they are concerned about climate change, more than ever before. What can universities do to respond to the demand from students to see action on sustainability? This session will share examples of student-led initiatives, supported by UK universities and students' unions. It will unpick the key success factors for supporting student learning and leadership for sustainability and share learning through case studies, stories, and evidence. Participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing their own institutions when engaging students in sustainability, and work together to find meaningful solutions. Students Organising for Sustainability believe higher education has a responsibility to ensure their graduates have the knowledge, skills and attributes to create a more just and sustainable world for all. This session will explore how we can meet this challenge and respond to the mounting demand from students to see sustainability embedded in their university experiences.

Workshop 1.2

Bologna process beyond 2020: fundamental values of the EHEA
Report and future development

Facilitator:    Agneta Bladh, Vice-President, Magna Charta Observatory

The aim of the workshop is to focus on the role of fundamental values and principles in the European Higher Education Area with parallel reflections from other HE systems.
The workshop consists of three introductory elements, which will be linked to each other:(i) a short introduction to the Bologna process and its connection to the Magna Charta Universitatum by the facilitator, (ii) reflections from a taskforce charged by the Bologna Follow-Up Group with preparing a process to better monitor the actual realities of values and principles in the EHEA countries by Monika Steinel, EUA and (iii) refelctions on how the new Magna Charta Universitatum 2020 can influence the EHEA and other HE systems by Dr Sijbolt Noorda, president of Magna Charta Observatory Council.
The discussion is supposed to focus on possible future developments in higher education in Europe and around the world concerning fundamental values and will be relevant for European participants as well as those from other continents. What could and should be done to corroborate the values and ethics agenda?
The result from the workshop can be a message from the academic sphere to the EHEA Ministerial Conference in Rome 2020. The earlier ministerial conference in Paris 2018, among other things, stated that "Academic freedom and integrity, institutional autonomy, participation of students and staff in higher education governance, and public responsibility for and of higher education form the backbone of the EHEA. Having seen these fundamental values challenged in recent years in some of our countries, we strongly commit to promoting and protecting them in the entire EHEA through intensified political dialogue and cooperation.” The Rome Conference also includes a Global Policy Forum - an opportunity to pursue a dialogue between EHEA and non-EHEA countries.

Report by Ella Ritchie

Workshop 1.3

(SAR) Erosion of academic freedom globally: opportunities and challenges for Canadian universities
Facilitators: Nandini Ramanujam, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, Canada

The proposed roundtable session invites SAR Canada members to critically reflect on rapid erosion of  academic freedom in the global context.  Participants are invited to discuss the opportunities and challenges for  Canadian universities in working towards the realization of   UN SDGs, particularly our engagement with goal 16.
The discussion is expected to revolve around the following questions:
o          Freedom of expression is often considered as a necessity for the common good of society. How is this manifested in the academic realm or within the campus setting?
o          What are the limits of freedom of expression?
o          Are there other rights that may potentially clash with the freedom of expression?
o          When are such limits justified?
o          How are these limits administered within an academic setting?
o          Does technology play a role within this context?


Workshops – Session 2

Workshop 2.1

Sustainable development
Facilitator:    Jim Dunn, Professor, McMaster University

Report by Tamires Gomes Sampaio 

Workshop 2.2

The MCO’s Living Values project
Facilitator:    David Lock, Secretary General of the Magna Charta Observatory

 Report by John Davies

Workshop 2.3

The role of representative student associations, current challenges and strategies in response
Facilitator:    Thierry Luescher, Research Director Higher Education, Human
                        Sciences Research Council, Cape Town

This workshop seeks to explore, and share experiences of, the challenges that representative student associations (such as student unions, student guilds, and student representative councils) experience to their role and how they respond to such challenges. We will explore questions related to (1) the different roles of representative student associations, (2) the effectiveness of student interest representation in formal decision-making structures and processes, (3) informal interactions with university authorities and stakeholders, and (4) the experience, effectiveness and impact of student protest action. We will consider these topics in relation to (a) the question of students’ rights and responsibilities in the context of the rights and responsibilities of other academic stakeholders and the public; and (b) the diversity of institutional and national student bodies and thus the challenge of aggregating ‘the’ student voice. We will start the workshop with a round of introductions and then discuss and agree on the scope, focus and methodology of the workshop. We will then explore the set of agreed-upon questions collectively in smaller groups. It is envisaged that we will collate the feedbacks of each group into a set of ‘experiences’, ‘findings’ and ‘recommendations’ to bring back to the plenary.



Workshops – Session 3

Workshop 3.1

(IAU) Value-based leadership for engaging with the SDGs
Facilitator:    Pam Fredman, President, International University Association, IAU

Report by Eva Egron-Polak

Workshop 3.2

MCU 2020: progress and prospects
Facilitator:    Sijbolt Noorda, President, Magna Charta Observatory

The output from this workshop was fed into the meeting of the MCU 2020 Drafting group and the version of the document resulting can be seen at 

Readers who wish to respond to the document or make suggestions are invited to email the Secretary General at 


Workshop 3.3

Equity and access
Facilitators: Graeme Atherton, Director, National Education Opportunities Network

The evidence shows in every country in the world where there is evidence (over 90%), access to higher education is unequal by social background. As access to quality education for all, including university, is one of the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, this session will look at how universities are addressing the issues of inequalities in access to and success in HE by social background. Are universities doing enough? What strategies are being adopted by universities across the world? And what is the potential does international collaboration have to help make universities and higher education more inclusive? Participants will have the opportunity to hear from the most recent theory and evidence in this area and work together in small groups to address the key issues in equitable access & success in higher education.

                        Mary Turpan-Wenno, Executive Director, ECHO, Center for Diversity Policy, The Netherlands

In a time of increasing diversity in education, disparities in academic performance and growing gaps in employment between groups of students become more prevalent. New policies and programs to enhance an inclusive learning environment are developed to close these gaps. The challenge for institutions remains to create an inclusive educational environment that holistically responds to the diversity of life journeys, academic motivation and the perseverance of all students. Identifying and capitalizing the intrinsic motivation of the diversity of students requires more than just believing in the talent and aspirations of students. Addressing diversity and inclusion means being aware of different perspectives, experiences and social identities and validating them positively and equally. Mary Tupan-Wenno has been involved in national, European and global developments on diversity and inclusion in (higher) education and will share her experiences in working with institutions in and outside of the Netherlands.

Report by Inga Bostad

* * *

Report on the Conference, by Pegi Palvetic

Report on the Conference, by Matej Berisa

* * *


Thursday 17 October 2019

09.30 – 12.00

Ceremony of the Signature of the Magna Charta Universitatum

Opening remarks

David Farrar, Interim President, McMaster University

Welcome greetings
Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

Signature of the Magna Charta Universitatum

Response on behalf of the new signatories

Professor Patrick Deane, Vice-Chancellor Queens University Canada

Rite of passage to the University of Bologna, that will host the event in 2020

Launch of the 32nd Anniversary celebration

Concluding remarks

Francesco Ubertini, Rector, University of Bologna, Italy