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The Identity of the University of te Future

Turin, June 2007


The Magna Charta Observatory organised on 14 and 15 June 2007 the third seminar of a series dedicated to reflecting on tomorrow’s idea of the university as an institution of higher education and research. In 1988, the Magna Charta Universitatum spoke of the ‘true university’, a term that needs further explanation with the changing role of the university in society The first two sessions were held in Reykjavik in 2005 and inLuxembourg in 2006: they looked at the history of the idea of the university and its possible projection into the future in function of the worldview which academics share about the place of their institution in society. In Turin, participants were asked to balance that inner perspective with stakeholders’ expectations, present and future, in view of the emerging society of knowledge. 

To anchor the debate in local realities, the seminar was organised in Piedmont where exemplary partnerships have developed over the last few years between the knowledge providers in Turin – the Politecnico and the Università in particular – and their key industrial, financial and political partners; they all share a platform where to discuss, re-invent and commit to the development of a knowledge region for North East Italy, the Mario Boella Institute (ISMB) that agreed to host the meeting and act as a reference for the 2007 reflections of the taskforce.



As in 2005 and 2006, the conversation was entrusted to a 20 strong taskforce set up by the Observatory to ensure continuity in the discussion: indeed, half the participants in Turin had taken part in one or both of the preceding meetings while the others were invited to bring in new ideas and new approaches to the subject. As in 2006, throughout the two days of the programme, the conference was facilitated by Eva Egron Polak, the Secretary General of the International Association of Universities in Paris. Daniel Samoilovich, as consultant of the Mario Boella Institute in charge of its international collaborations with Latin American regions, acted as the ‘devil’s advocate’ in order to contrast viewpoints and keep the conversation going. 

Participants had been asked to glance through the 2005 UNESCO report entitled Towards the society of knowledge and to take account of Edgar Morin’s Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future, a document UNESCO published in 2001. The meeting opend on an address by Ezio Andreta, now Commissioner of the National Innovation Agency in Rome after a career at the DG research in Brussels. The discussion also drew from the lessons learned from the work of the Mario Boella Institute, its President, Professor Rodolfo Zich, indicating how the ISMB acted and acts as a catalyst for change in the development of a knowledge region for Piedmont – an analysis illustrated by industrial leaders from Telecom Italia and Motorola, and completed by a Politecnico’s presentation of its innovation policies. A rich discussion followed and the taskforce pointed to key aspects of tomorrow’s role of universities in the knowledge society, points that are to be reworked by Jon Torfi Jonasson (University of Iceland) in an Essay on the University of tomorrow to be published in 2008 at the occasion of the 20th anniversary in Bologna of the signing of the Magna Charta in 1988.




Andris, Secretary General, Magna Charta Observatory, Bologna


Bastian, Law Student, Free University of Berlin & Kassel University, Former Executive Board ESIB


Stefan, Commodification Committee, Executive Board, European Student Unions (ESU ex-ESIB), Brussels


Sjur, Director, Committee Higher Education and Research, Council of Europe, Strasbourg


Aleksa, Rector, University of Zagreb


Michael, former President, University of Oldenburg, former UN Commissioner for Education in Kosovo, Posdam


Kenneth, former Vice-Chancellor Leicester University, former President, Association of European Universities, Cambridge


Eva, Secretary General, International Association of Universities, Paris


Georges, Director for Higher Education, UNESCO, Paris, former President, Paris I- Sorbonne


Jon Torfi, former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavik


Kari, Chancellor of the University of Helsinki


Daniel, Director, Columbus Programme for Euro-Latin American inter-university cooperation, Paris & Torino Wireless, Turin


Pall, former Rector University of Iceland, Reykjavik


David, President and founder, Quest University, British Columbia

15. van der WENDE

Marijk, President, OECD Programme for the International Management of Higher Education, Paris & Amsterdam


Rodolfo, President of Mario Boella Institute, former Rector, Politecnico di Torino



Wednesday 13 June:

Day of arrival of participants

18.00 – 19.30

Informal get-together and presentation of the seminar programme


Welcome dinner



Thursday 14 June:


09.00 - 10.30

Questions for a meeting, by Jon Torfi Jonasson (picking up the points evoked by the 2005 and 2006 seminars) and first round of discussions on the seminar main foci.

11.00 - 12.30

Complexity and the society of knowledge: which partnership for development? Reference themes for in-depth reflections



14.30 – 16.00

The stakeholders’ ‘academic’ expectations, general discussion

16.30 – 18.00

Preparing questions for the Turin case study





Friday 15 June:


09.00 - 10.30

Steering or joining change: a role for universities? The Turin case, a presentation chaired by Rodolfo Zich, President, Mario Boella Institute, with various partners of the Institute and Torino Wireless

11.00 - 12.30

Betting on universities, why and how? Discussion introduced by a brief account of knowledge management strategies in Finland, by Kari Raivio, Chancellor, University of Helsinki (to be confirmed)



14.30 – 16.00

Defending public interest, preliminary remarks for general discussion by Sjur Bergan, Council of Europe, and Germain Dondelinger, Ministry of Education, Luxembourg

16.30 – 18.00

Keypoints for a university of the future, taskforce conclusions


Final Dinner



Saturday June 16:

Day of departure