Magna Charta Observatory Research developments

Call for Expressions of Interest

For contract staff or collaboration contract or secondment of a candidate from a signatory university in the following profile: research assistant for Magna Charta Observatory Research developments.


In fulfilment of its 2020-2025 strategy the MCO is investing in the development of its research capacity. It has approved an outline research strategy and now seeks to appoint a research assistant to help to take this work forward. The overall theme of the research is ‘The responsive and responsible university’. Please, find below further details of the post and the research strategy.



There will be further opportunities for signatory universities to become involved with and benefit from the research initiative of the MCO about which we will write in due course.


Magna Charta Observatory


In 1988, 388 Rectors gathered in Bologna to sign the Magna Charta Universitatum: a document that enshrines the fundamental values of academic freedom, university autonomy and service to society. To date, more than 950 universities from 94 different countries have committed themselves to living according to its values. A new version of the document, the MCU2020, enshrines a truly global perspective in line with the changes affecting higher education institutions and social challenges. More details about the MCO and the MCU 2020 can be seen at


In its strategy for 2020 -2025, which can be seen at the Magna Charta Observatory (MCO) sets out a number of objectives. To help it achieve these objectives and provide a better service to its signatories the MCO has adopted an outline research strategy. A copy is at the end of this document.


The MCO is now seeking a person to serve as research assistant to enable the development and fulfilment of the research strategy and assist generally with the achievement of the MCO’s objectives.


Duties: the duties of the Research Assistant will include to:

•          Compile and maintain a bibliography on responsiveness and responsibility in higher education

•          Compile and maintain a searchable database of existing and developing work and bibliographies on related topics, for example academic freedom, civic engagement, research impact, sustainability and work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

•          Create and administer a repository of works and publications contributed to or produced by the MCO on the topic of ‘The Responsive and Responsible University’

•          Provide ongoing assistance to the Research Committee of the MCO.


In addition, the post holder will assist the MCO Administrator with other aspects of the work of the MCO and will be invited to engage with other projects relevant to the MCO’s strategy.


Duration: This is a 3-year full-time post. The appointee will report functionally to the Secretary-General of the MCO, and strategically to the Chair of the MCO Research Committee.


Eligibility criteria of applicants:

· Enjoy full rights as a citizen of a State of a Signatory University
· Meet any obligations under national laws on military service
· Meet the character requirements for the duties concerned  :



A level of education which corresponds to completed university studies of at least three years attested by an undergraduate degree.


Only qualifications issued or recognised as equivalent by Signatory Universities State Public Authorities (e.g.
by the Ministry of Education) will be accepted. Furthermore, before recruitment, it shall be required to provide the documents that corroborate eligibility citeria and the information in application form (diplomas, certificates and other supporting documents).


  • Appropriate professional experience  of undertaking or administering research

•          Experience and expertise in bibliographic work

•          Experience and expertise in research assistance

  • Relevant IT and other technical competence
  • Fluency in the English language.


Desired attributes of applicants:

•          Experience and expertise in library systems

•          Multilingual ability

•          Experience of research collaboration.



Place of work: The place of work will either be in person in Bologna or remotely under arrangements approved by the MCO. Candidates must be able to undertake international travel.


Data Protection: OMC guarantees the confidentiality and safety of candidates' personal data and in compliance with EU Regulation 2016/679 (General Data Protection Regulation) for the current evaluation procedure.


Salary: The amount of the  salary for the role is  about €20,000 gross per year, subject to the italian taxation depending on the kind of contract signed..


Application deadline

Applications or expressions of interest, with a full CV,  should be emailed to by 20 July 2022.

Applications already received will maintain their validity.

Applications must contain:

a.         A profile of the individual

b.         Details of his/her global experience

c.         Details of his/her experience of working in higher education

d.         Details of his/her experience of undertaking or administering research

e.         Examples of any previous assignments of a similar nature

f.          The date on which you would be available to start,


Selection process: the selection will be carried out by means of a prior evaluation of qualifications and an interview.


Meetings, consisting in  an interview and optionally other forms of evaluation,  conducted by a selection panel, to assess the suitability of qualifications,  professional experience and linguistic knowledge for the relevant position,   will be held with short-listed applicants in the week commencing 11 July 2022,


The panel can allocate a final mark of total 100 points for each candidate:

-       A mark of a maximum of  XX     points  for the evaluation of qualifications (CV, academic qualifications and professional experience);

-       A mark of a maximum of  XX     points for the evaluation of the interview.




1.         Communications will be in English

2.         The contract will be issued by the MCO and will be executed under the Italian jurisdiction.

3.         The contract is for a period of 12 months, renewable for another 12 months.

4.         The contract can be ended prematurely in the event of a breach of performance by either party, following reasonable attempts to resolve the breach.









According to the new MCO Strategy 2020, “gathering information, raising awareness of fundamental values for the development of universities and higher education systems “is one vehicle for attainment of the objectives contained in the organisation’s mission, of which Academic Responsibility is one. A vibrant and operational research strategy is thus seen as essential to give effect to this aspiration.  Specifically, it is intended that the strategy will

  • use research to facilitate MCO as the natural first point of reference for those HEI seeking wisdom on the particular research themes, thus facilitating its positioning, visibility and regard.
  • be a prominent vehicle in engaging member HEI in the definition of relevant themes, the assembly of evidence of good practice and problem areas in relation to those themes, and the provision of recommended good practice for the use by HEI.
  • facilitate the development of ideas on relevant policy development and its implementation at HEI and HE Agency levels.


The activity will thus be both empirical and normative in nature, and most certainly collaborative within and beyond the MCO community. There is also a strong case, given the priority attached to IMPACT, for an action research dimension to the projects.



The contemporary world is troubled with myriad issues which are threatening the stability and evolution of societies in many domains. These issue include warfare; fractured societies; something of a moral and intellectual vacuum nationally and internationally; massive population migration with its attendant challenges; economic chaos  ; threats to democracy and the related issues of  individual freedom, academic freedom and institutional autonomy; and state terrorism.


It is arguable that this litany of grief produces not only challenges for universities individually and collectively, but also some significant opportunities for universities to make creative interventions in their societies to help address some of these issues in a proactive manner. This would mean academic freedom and institutional accountability, not as a self-centred and inward-looking phenomenon, but as outward looking, responsible and responsive for the greater good.


Whilst many HEI have excellent examples of the above, the public image may be one of universities which are self-centred and self-serving, and this clearly needs to be change, in terms of the long term legitimacy and perceived usefulness of universities.

Thus, the MCO fundamental values are also justified in terms of necessary operational freedom to be creative for the good of society.


The overarching theme suggested for the MCO Research Strategy is proposed as ….




It is intended that this operates as an umbrella which will generate and provide a conceptual home for a number of rather more specific projects on particular subthemes, determined by a Call for Proposals from member universities, indicating the nature, purposes, and potential scope of the landscape.  These subthemes could conceivably include, for example …

  • universities’ role in nation building
  • universities’ roles in helping societies to counter pandemics
  • universities and sustainability of the planet
  • universities’ roles in advocating for social justice, humanitarian behaviour by governments, access etc
  • universities and their roles in the cultural, social, economic development of their regions
  • universities and their role in facilitating the creative and peaceful integration of migrants in their regional communities
  • safeguarding universities from the negative consequences of “woke-ism”, the cancellation culture, both sides of the decolonialisation
  • processes of developing and nourishing a creative, dynamic relationship between universities and their partners, and the users of university services and expertise.

It is emphasised that these are indicative only, and there will be many other excellent candidate titles. It will be noted that themes under this overarching theme will invariably involve societal impact




The overarching title is one which leads itself to acting as   a comprehensive parent to what universities perceive as key issues, but prior to this, it is considered there is a task to be done in terms of producing a CLEAR DEFINITION OF THE FIELD, so that universities can understand the framework of which they can potentially be a part. It is vital that the MCO activities in this area should be characterised by a contribution which is distinctive and differentiated from others in this broad field of enquiry. It is proposed therefore that a substantial study should be undertaken to produce a depth Bibliography based study of the topic, drawing on existing bibliographies and studies. This would


  • indicate the sources and their specific contributions, both to the general concept and its manifestations
  • suggest gaps in existing work, or how existing work could be extended
  • suggest fruitful areas of enquiry by MCO research activists
  • establish a repository or resource base which can be accessed by universities and agencies.

It is recognised that this will include relevant works in languages other than English.


With this information, and with a template of the field, MCO will then, through a Call for Proposals, invite member universities to undertake the SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS ON A PARTICULAR THEME, within the defined distinctive parameters. This should be done on a collaborative basis with other members, and/or associates internationally, to give a necessary global dimension, together with societal partners, which is a logical requirement of the topic itself.  This collaboration may take the form of


  • a research project, which may well include an action dimension and defined desired impact
  • an R and D project
  • a joint graduate school for doctoral students from the various universities working on the same theme…..student mobility and joint supervision
  • joint research training
  • Joint staff activity and exchange, and the possibility of MCO research fellowship designations for project leaders.


Various dissemination activities will follow such research and report compilation, ie

  • published papers and reports…by MCO as a series entitled “University Responsibility and Responsiveness”
  • published theses
  • the bibliographic repository
  • guidelines on good practice discerned during the research, including case studies
  • workshops for university leaders, government and agency officers, and societal leaders
  • workshops for groups of research teams, including societal collaborators
  • webinars
  • a part of the MCO Website devoted to this initiative, and the use of YouTube and other e-means
  • regular feeding of research activities and developments in ongoing MCO meetings and conferences.




The above is intended to present a strategic framework for MCO research endeavours, in the light of its mission. It is normal in strategic planning processes for the broad statements of intent to be translated into a given planning period with annual operational plans, which indicate the priorities for a particular academic or calendar year in terms of actions with timelines for their completion. It is suggested that the initial time horizon for this overall initiative should be 3 academic years, commencing in September 2022, but not precluding preliminary preparations, from April – September.


These operational plans will focus on the practical means to achieve the desired ends, and are likely to include attention to very specific aspects of strategy implementation including


  • the funding profile for the various activities:  funding sources necessary to deliver the activity by participating HEI, and the division of costs between participating HEI and their partners, and any pump priming provided by MCO
  • sustainability of funding over the initial 3-year period of the plan in terms of the MCO budget
  • selection and employment of researchers to undertake the Bibliography project
  • the Call for Proposals:   processes and criteria, ground rules, adjudication of applications
  • monitoring of approved initiatives … Research Committee or another body
  • general QA arrangements for the particular initiatives proposed above, including peer review
  • IP and copyright of MCO projects conducted through universities
  • publication outlets for MCO outputs
  • the nature of collaboration possible with other relevant bodies (EUA, IAU, UNESCO, ALIA, CGHE) to assist in the achievement of the priorities.


These are important, as the not only constitute mechanisms of steerage, but also means of the incentivisation of researchers and universities.

It is broadly anticipated that the sequence of key activities in the first year will be along the following lines …


  • approval of strategy by the Board
  • appointment of researcher to undertake the Bibliographical project by Council/ Committee
  • conduct of the bibliographical project, and the distillation of the overarching conceptual framework by the researcher and Research Committee
  • setting up mechanisms for the Repository
  • setting up mechanisms for the Call for Proposals by the Committee
  • clarifying publications policy for the project.

It is appreciated that several of the above may run in parallel.


The Council is invited to consider and approve this paper.


In this event, it is then suggested that the Research Committee should be invited to produce the first annual Operating Plan to start the initiative, and to commence activating as appropriate, the points indicated above, together with any further ones suggested by the Council.


On behalf of the Research Committee

Emeritus Professor John L. Davies

17 March 2022


Adopted by the Governing Council

24 March 2022

Published on 23 May 2022