2016 Annual Report

Magna Charta Observatory

Report of the Secretary General 2016


It is my pleasure to report on the activities of the Observatory during 2016 and to share with you our future plans.

During the year the Council approved a strategic plan. This set clear directions for fulfilling its mission for the future which included growth, becoming more global, engaging more closely with our signatories and doing this with more people in more modern ways.

The fact that for the first time the annual conference was held outside Europe in São Paulo is tangible evidence of our more global aspirations. The global and growth objectives are further evidenced by three other international activities which took place this year outside of Europe. Our first event in South Africa took place in Cape Town in May, when we partnered with the Southern African Regional Universities Association in the delivery of a workshop. Our first collaboration with the Association of Arab Universities took place in Jordan in September. In November we met with universities in Asia, and other parts of the world, when we partner with the International Association of Universities to deliver a workshop and host a working lunch in Thailand. In 2017 we plan to return to Europe for a workshop in Glasgow in January and for our Annual meeting in September we shall be the guests of the University of Pécs in Hungary.

We have looked at how we relate to universities and particularly to our signatories. Recognising that the pursuit of institutional autonomy and the achievement of academic freedom is an on-going journey, we have reviewed the admissions policy and made it explicit that universities anywhere in the world which adhere to, or are able to adhere to, the fundamental principles set out in the Magna Charta Universitatum and are endeavouring to do so, would be welcome. Without compromising on fundamental requirements or standards of scrutiny we have simplified our application procedures and we invite all of those universities that think they might meet our criteria to apply to sign the Magna Charta Universitatum. In greater numbers there is greater strength and greater impact.

Reflecting our new global strategy, we are delighted that for the first time ever, new signatories have been admitted outside of Bologna and we thank the Rector of the University of São Paulo for enabling this to happen.

More information has been carried on our website. There have been frequent up-dates and our modernisation agenda has included greater use of social media. Work is in progress on enhancing our research capability and on developing our website to be the premier source of information in support of institutional autonomy and academic freedom. I urge you to visit it.

The modernisation element of our strategy has resulted in significant responses, particularly on those occasions when the MCO has engaged in interventions in support of institutional autonomy and academic freedom. The situation in Turkey has been of international concern. The MCO joined with over 20 kindred bodies to express concern and has continued a dialogue with the Council for Higher Education in Turkey. The MCO has been supportive of signatories in Turkey and has greatly valued their collaboration. The interest from around the world has served to endorse the more global perspective of the MCO.

Coming up next year we shall be looking at how adherence to fundamental values can enable universities to achieve greater impact. Our group of Ambassadors and the MCO Council started work on this in Bologna last year. Activities this year have added evidence. We plan that one of the outputs will be resources for universities which can be used globally.

The MCO is funded in part by the University of Bologna but increasingly by voluntary donations from signatories. It is greatly encouraging that the level of donations in 2016 is already in excess of previous years. On behalf of the Council, I would like to thank all of those institutions which have contributed. The new strategy requires a higher level of resources. We want to continue the situation whereby there is no ‘membership fee’. But we can only do so if those universities who are able to support us with funding give generously. I urge signatories to support the MCO financially if they are able to so – for the benefit of their own universities and those which are seeking to achieve the fundamental values to which we all enjoy or aspire.

All of this would not have been achieved without the insight and support of members of the MCO Council, the strong support of those organisations with which we have collaborated during the year, particularly our hosts at the University of São Paulo, SARUA, IAU and AArU and the support of our signatories. On behalf of the Council I would like to thank all of those who have, in any way supported the MCO. The contribution of our Administrator Carla Pazzaglia and the support of the University of Bologna are particularly recognised.

There is, of course, much more to do. Having looked at our admissions policy and welcomed more signatories we now look at how they, and others wishing to sign, might best be supported in their quest and engage with us. We shall be developing the resources of the MCO, looking to enhance its research capability and the promulgation of that research. We shall continue to seek new ways of operating globally and enlarging the number of specialists who work with us.

For all the support which you have provided – we thank you; and we look forward to having greater impact, more globally in the years to come.


David J. Lock Secretary General Magna Charta Observatory

December 2016