Strategic plan

Magna Charta Observatory Strategy 2020 – 2025


The Observatory’s Mission

  1. The Magna Charta Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights (MCO) is a non-profit organisation, founded in 2000 by the University of Bologna and the European University Association.
  2. The Observatory plays an active role in guaranteeing the respect, protection and promotion of the fundamental values and university rights set out in the Magna Charta Universitatum (MCU), signed in Bologna in 1988 and developed in the MCU 2020. The Observatory acts as the guardian of these values and assists signatories and other bodies in the understanding and implementation of them.
  3. It gathers information, raises awareness of the importance of fundamental values ​​for the development of universities and higher education systems by organising and participating in events, expressing opinions, preparing documents, developing guidelines and resources and undertaking reviews. The Observatory both proclaims the values and increasingly engages with universities to support the achievement of their implementation.
  4. From being established in Europe it is the mission of the Observatory to become more global. The Observatory works with other national, European or international organisations pursuing similar or compatible aims and universities which have signed the Magna Charta Universitatum. The Observatory provides support for universities and it is their collective voice on which the Observatory relies when expressing opinions.
  5. The Observatory invites universities to sign the MCU as a public commitment to the values therein. More signatories and more events are means of having greater impact in the world

    Achievements up to 2020
  6. By 2020 the MCO had:
    a. 906 signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum (up from 366 in 1988)
    b. Developed a new Magna Charta (MCU 2020) to reflect the changes affecting universities since the original 1988 version
    c. Piloted and launched the Living Values project with the help of a newly formed group of Ambassadors
    d. Held events in 14 countries, 20 international anniversary conferences, issued 19 publications and reports on observations, made presentations to international and regional conferences and engaged signatories more actively
    e. Increasingly involved more students in its activities.
    f. Moved from just proclamation to also include the application of values and
    g. Modernised how the Observatory works, including greater use of the website and virtual communications.

    The changing landscape
  7. The environment in which universities operate differs greatly from that of 1988 and by 2025 it will have changed even more. The differences have, in part, been a consequence of a faster pace of change, greater globalisation, more diverse expectations from wider range of stakeholders and greater uncertainty. Universities are also being challenged in new ways and with greater intensity including more discrimination, violation of freedom of expression and censorship.
  8. The successes of universities have been magnets for additional interest in them and have led to greater interference in their regulation.
  9. There has been an erosion of support for autonomous universities and of trust in independent science and free scholarship.
  10. There has been politically or ideologically motivated reigning in of universities and their staff and students by governments and/or other authorities.
  11. Universities have a vital role to play, both in their own societies and globally. Universities are key players in the definition and attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. These call for multidisciplinary working and external collaborations as well as setting an example in their own behaviour.
  12. In this changing landscape with the greater uncertainty, fundamental rights and values have a crucial function to guide the development of universities and enable them to create the future they want.
  13. Proclaiming their values more strongly will help universities. Ensuring that their values are clearly articulated, adopted by staff and lived, in practice, will create internal integrity and strengthen the achievement of a university’s mission.

    The Observatory’s strategy for 2020 – 2025
  14. As the guardian of the MCU values, the MCO will seek to include all universities, including those that have been newly formed, in its work. The Observatory’s over-arching objectives are to:
    a. strengthen the network of universities that share the principles set out in the MCU;
    b. disseminate the values set out in the MCU and promote their application in practice;
    c. promote and communicate the Observatory's activities and its mission;
    d. increase the number of universities applying to sign the MCU.

  15. More specifically the MCO will:
    e. organise an annual ceremony for the signature of the Magna Charta Universitatum;
    f. organise regional workshops or participate in events organised by other bodies to achieve its objectives;
    g. make inputs to national, regional or international meetings where there is an opportunity to promote the Magna Charta Observatory and/or the understanding of values set out in the Magna Charta Universitatum and their implementation;
    h. develop the Living Values project and support signatory universities in their implementation of it;
    i. assist signatory universities generally in operating in accordance with the values set out in the Magna Charta Universitatum; 
    j. use webinars and other virtual means where it is expedient to do so including where physical activity is not permitted or impractical.

  16. The MCO will work closely with the European Universities Association, which has a statutory requirement that universities applying to join the Association must be signatories of the MCU 1988.  It will work closely with the University of Bologna to support each other generally in areas of mutual interest to achieve an effective and lasting collaboration in order to raise awareness of the importance of fundamental values ​​for the development of higher education systems. It will work with other regional and international bodies for the same purposes.
  17. The new elements of MCU 2020 provide fertile ground for research, webinars, regional workshops and rich content at conferences. It will be a priority to persuade as many signatories of the 1988 MCU to sign the 2020 edition.
  18. The Living Values project will be developed and more support will be provided for universities wishing to use it. A data bank of evidence about successful use of the project and community of practice is to be developed for the benefit of signatories.
  19. More effective communications, including the use of social media, will aim to improve the involvement of signatories in the work of the MCO and their active application of values. Investment in research will enhance the MCO’s input to this.
  20. Signatories will be engaged more deeply and more frequently in the issues which the MCO is facing. This work will connect with events and a space on the website will be available to signatories as a forum, a source of ideas and a place where the experience of signatories can be shared.
  21. The Observatory will plan programmes which comprise webinars, workshops and conferences and will support these by developing resources which can be available to all universities via its website, which will be modernised.
  22. The partnerships with IAU, SAR, EUA, ESU, WAHED and AArU will continue to be developed through participation in their events, projects and other activities where these meet the objectives of the Observatory. Involvement with these, and possibly other groups, will also serve to interest more universities in signing the MCU.
  23. The strategy will be kept under review by the Governing Council and resourced by an annual payment from UNIBO in accordance with the protocol, voluntary contributions from signatories, which will be recognised more prominently, and charges for participation in activities where such charges are deemed to be viable.

Adopted by the Observatory Governing Council

16 March 2021