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Ambassadors and Living Values meeting in Stockholm

Stockholm, 20-22 June 2022

Current and new MCO Ambassadors and universities newly participating in the Living Values project met at Stockholm University in June. They interacted with leading international speakers on academic freedom and university autonomy and studied how the project had brought benefits in previous phases. They learnt from the experience of Stockholm University and started forming into a global group that will bring benefits to MCO signatories for years to come.


Six new Ambassadors joined twelve who had been reappointed and ten universities who were starting to implement the MCO’s Living Values project. It was the MCO’s first in-person workshop since the start of the pandemic.


Guest speaker Rob Quinn, Founder and Executive Director of Scholars at Risk, and a human rights lawyer, spoke of the development of Scholars at Risk, the challenges of ensuring academic freedom across the world and obtaining good data about the extent of academic freedom in each country. He introduced the VDEM Academic Freedom index and applauded the Living Values project as a way of enabling universities to ensure that they did indeed create an environment in which it could operate effectively and responsibly.


Professor Liviu Matei, formerly of the Central European University (CEU) and now at Kings College London, who had been one of those leading CEU’s response to the various actions of the Hungarian government to restrict its autonomy and its move to Vienna, spoke of the importance of universities knowing, defining and living by their values. The values of CEU had represented their priorities and had been important in the decision making about its future. He suggested that a social contract could help to secure university autonomy. Transparency, trust and support from the public was vital. Autonomy within the university was also an issue which needed to be balanced between the various components. Autonomy needed to be broken down into its various components (academic, financial etc) for its implementation to be effective.


Both Rob Quinn and Liviu Matei had extended periods of questions and discussion with the participants.


Reviewing the Living Values project, David Lock reported on the impact and feedback from users in previous waves of the project and areas in which its effectiveness may be enhanced. Emeritus Professor John Davies reviewed the experience of Ambassadors in action and shared his findings on what had worked best. Professor Caroline Parker addressed the question of how did universities know that their values were having effect in practice. ESU President Martina Darmanin spoke about how students might be more involved, including through quality assurance processes.


Other presentations included a deep insight into Stockholm University’s experience of using the Living Values project and possible development in the application of the project to multi-university projects.


The President of Stockholm University, Professor Astrid Söderbergh Widding and her colleagues had created an excellent environment for this important meeting to take place and also be joined virtually by those not able to attend in person.


Universities wishing to use the Living Values project can find details at Universities wishing to seek input from an Ambassador are invited to email