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The Idea of the University of the Future

Reykjavik, May 2005

The Idea of the University of the Future, Reykjavik, May 2005



Over the recent years, the Observatory group has developed thought on the specificities making the university of today – and their embedding in the principles of the 1988 Magna Charta Universitatum that founds its work: various publications are presenting, year after year, this growing understanding of what the Collegium could consider to be a “true university”, to use a word of the Magna Charta, i.e., the elements that define the institution in terms of rights and obligations as a key partner in the development of civilisation and society. Some of these papers were used in the ‘reader’ put together to ensure a common basis for the Reykjavik discussions, material that had been sent to the participants early, with the hope they would find enough time to peruse it on their way to Iceland.
To discuss the Idea of the University of the Future, the Observatory and the University of Iceland decided to set up a taskforce that could prolong the debate over time and thus explore the matter with some continuity of purpose.
The 20 participants were asked to structure the two days of reflection around four questions. The first day, people would evoke the following:
1) What are the stories we tell ourselves about the universities that put us at risk when thinking about the future?

Given these myths, what are the basic functions for which we are still in need of universities?
For the second day, the answers from the first day were developed in a brainstorming session, in which the whole group was to reflect on:

What should tomorrow’s universities look like? These discussions let, in the afternoon, to a public session opened to staff and stakeholders of the University of Iceland, the question to be explored with them being
In order to adapt, do universities need radical transformation or can they continue on a path of incremental change?
Thus, this first session of the taskforce did help focus on the need of a revised frame of reference for university work, a frame that would emulate, in its own way, the efforts made by Cardinal Newman in the mid-19th century to situate the institution’s raison-d’être in its time and day (The Idea of the University).

See the interim report prepared by the Secretariat (faire lien au rapport de la conference) that should help define other sessions of the taskforce in 2006 and 2007.

Download Report



Dr. Ken Edwards
Former Rector Leicester University and Chair of the Board of the Magna Charta Observatory
Cambridge, UK

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

Prof. Hélène Lamicq
Former Rector Université Paris XII and Member of the Magna Charta Observatory Board
Paris, France

Prof. Josep Bricall
Former Rector Universitat de Barcelona and Member of the Magna Charta Observatory Collegium
Barcelona Spain

Prof. Andrei Marga
Former Rector "Babes-Bolyai" University in Cluj and Member of the Magna Charta Observatory Collegium
Cluj Romania

Dr. Andris Barblan
Secretary General Magna Charta Observatory
Bologna Italy

Prof. Madeleine Green
Vice-president and Director Centre on Institutional and International Initiatives American Council on Education
Washington, DC USA

Dr. Henrik Enroth
Department of Political Science - Stockholm University
Stockholm Sweden

Prof. Eric Froment
Former Rector University Lyon 2
Lyon France

Dr. Diego Lucci
Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
Napoli Italy

Prof. Francisco Naishtat
Instituto de investigaciones Gino Germani
Buenos Aires Argentina

Prof. Pall Skulason
Rector University of Iceland
Reykjavik Iceland

Prof. Germain Dodelinger
Professeur-attaché - Ministry of Culture, Higher Education and Research
Luxembourg Luxembourg

Prof. Ingjaldur Hannibalsson
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration - University of Iceland
Reykjavik Iceland

Prof. Jon Torfi Jonasson
Faculty of Social Science University of Iceland
Reykjavik Iceland

Prof. Olafur Proppé
Iceland University of Education
Reykjavik Iceland

Prof. Gudrun Geirsdottir
Faculty of Social Science University of Iceland
Reykjavik Iceland

Prof. Roderick Floud
President London Metropolitan University
London UK

Prof. Kristin Ingolfsdottir
Rector University of Iceland from July 1st 2005
Reykjavik Iceland