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Taskforce on the Identity of Tomorrow's University

Luxembourg, May 2006


In December 2004 – referring to the Magna Charta’s use of the term ‘true’ university – the Observatory decided to explore the values and functions that make the institution today, that explain its self-understanding, and that justify the various forms of its autonomy: how can and should these values and functions evolve in the mid- and long-term future, especially if modern societies are to structure their development around knowledge? To discuss these themes, the Observatory decided to set up an international taskforce that first met at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik on 2 and 3 May 2005 to search for a common vocabulary by analysing those shared references that come from the ‘founding myths’ of the university as a social institution. This resulted in a ‘mapping’ of academic functions that was used as a reference framework in the second session of the taskforce: it moved from questions of university identity to its expression in the academic integration of society’s present and future needs. That second session was hosted by the University of Luxembourg from 11 to 13 May 2006.



Bringing together some twenty participants, the meeting was facilitated by Eva Egron-Polak, the Secretary General of the International Association of Universities in Paris. The leitmotiv of the conversation was the changing role of knowledge as expressed and moved by universities. The first day of the programme looked at the internal logic of university development when the institution tries to meet social demands, that it is not necessarily prepared to take up. The second day centred on the logic of outside partners who require university support in putting the community on the path toward a knowledge society. The aim was to explore possible scenarios for ‘unpredictability’ – as times to come are open and difficult to foresee. Is there an axis for university development that could help academic leaders and their social partners to rally around flexible and differentiated compacts so that the responsibilities for new relevance are really shared between academic institutions, students and their supporting community. The last part of the first days was open to the public and dealt with the role of polyvalent universities in smaller countries – like Iceland or Luxembourg – where universities are the visible key actor for social and cultural development.

The conversation concluded on a sharp focus on complexity that could help prepare further discussions, the third session of the taskforce being asked to discuss in 2007 ‘The multidimensional university in a multidimensional society’. The narrative of that rich meeting – heavily influenced by the techniques of future oriented thought as they have been developed by Sohail Inayatullah (2000) in ‘The University in Transformation’, a book that was also used as reference material in Iceland in 2005.



Prof. Jaak Aviksoo
Rector, University of Tartu
Tartu, Estonia

Dr. Andris Barblan
Secretary General, Magna Charta Observatory
Bologna, Italy

Prof. Tove Bull
Former Rector, University of Tromsoe
Tromsoe, Norway

Prof. Germain Dondelinger
Professeur-attaché – Ministry of Culture, Higher Education and Research

Prof. Abdul Razak Dzulkifili
Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Prof. Kenneth Edwards
Former CRE President, Chair of the Board Magna Charta Observatory
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Dr. Eva Egron-Polak
Secretary General, Association Internationale des Universités – Unesco
Paris, France

Prof. Ustun Erguder
Director Istanbul Policy Center at Sabanci University and member of the Board Magna Charta Observatory,
Istanbul, Turkey

rof. Gudrun Geirsdottir
University of Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Prof. Fabienne Goux Baudiment
President, World Futures Studies Federation
Paris, France

Prof. Georges Haddad
Director, Division of Higher Education Unesco and member of the Collegium Magna Charta Observatory
Paris, France

Prof. Josef Huber
Administrator, Council of Europe – Higher Education and Research
Strasbourg, France

Prof. Jon Torfi Jonasson
University of Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Prof. Mikael Karlsson
University of Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Prof. Jean-Paul Lehners
Vice-Rector University of Luxembourg

Prof. Fabio Roversi-Monaco
Former Rector, Università di Bologna and President of the Collegium Magna Charta Universitatum
Bologna, Italy

Prof. Pall Skulason
Former Rector, University of Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Prof. Fuada Stankovic
Former Rector, University of Novi Sad
Novi Sad, Serbia

Prof. Rolf Tarrach
Rector, University of Luxembourg

Prof. Mollie Temple
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Bolton
Leeds, United Kingdom



Thursday 11 May 2006


Day of arrival

Grand Hotel Cravat, 29, boulevard F.D. Roosevelt - Conference room

17.00 - 19.00

Get together, presentation of the participants and of the programme


Welcome dinner


Friday 12 May 2006



Departure from hotels to the meeting place

University of Luxembourg, Salle du Conseil de Gouvernance, Limpertsberg 162a, avenue de la Faïencerie


University faces

09.00 - 10.30

‘Political correctness for tomorrow’: university obligations

11.00 - 12.30


Developing a university in Luxembourg: a case study


Lunch at University Cafeteria

14.30 - 16.00

Which functions for which profile? The factors of change

16.30 - 18.00

Public session: ‘Small countries, great universities’

18.00 - 19.00

Cocktail for taskforce members to meet the audience


Dinner hosted by the Ministry at Château de Bourglinster, 8, rue du Château, Bourglinster

Saturday 13 May 2006



Meeting unpredictability

09.00 - 10.30

A defaced university ? the evolution from 1990 to today

11.00 - 12.30


The defaced university: the impact of change


Lunch at University Cafeteria

14.30 - 15.30

The re-configured university: moving towards 2025

16.00 - 17.00

The re-configured university: possible ‘invariants’

17.00 - 17.45

General discussion on impact of future changes

17.45 - 18.30

Closing sessionthe dynamics of openness


Gala dinner hosted by the University at Cercle Munster, 5-7 rue Munster

Sunday 14 May 2006



Departur or

optional day excursion :

morning guided walk through the city and lunch. Afternoon free.


Bologna, 8 April 2006