Nearly 33 years ago, European university leaders gathered in Bologna, Italy to sign University Magna Carta, A document advocating the basic values ​​of autonomy and academic freedom. In the following decades, the number of universities that signed the document increased from the original 388 to about 900, from nearly 90 countries around the world.

The touchstone file needs to be updated.Last week, university leaders almost gathered to celebrate the launch and signing New Magna CartaIn view of the globalization of higher education that has taken place in the decades since the signing of the first Magna Carta on September 18, 1988, it extends the principles outlined in the original document.

The new document states: “Since then, the world has been connected to each other in a way that was unimaginable at the time of the initial declaration.” “Universities have proliferated globally, and their variety, scope, and mission have increased dramatically. Globally, seek university education. There has been an increase in the number and diversity of students, their reasons for doing so and the expectations of their families and communities have also increased.”

The document describes the decline in trust in professional knowledge and changes in learning, teaching, and research models. “Despite these changes,” the document says, “the potential for higher education to be an active agent of change and social change still exists. The principles set by the Magna Carta University are as valid today as they were in 1988. They are through inquiry, Analysis and reasonable action are necessary prerequisites to promote human progress.”

David Rock, secretary general of the Magna Carta Observatory, who signed the Association of Universities, said that the new document does not deviate from the core principles of the original document.

“Note that the principle is the same,” he said. “They are all there: the importance of autonomy, the importance of academic freedom, the importance of universities serving society.

“This adds more details about the types of challenges facing universities, the working environment, and social expectations. For example, compared to 1988, sustainability is now a larger theme facing universities… Compared to 1988, This has now become a bigger problem for universities.”

“There is also a feeling that the new document is bolder than the old document, for example, clearly stating that education is a human right,” Locke continued. “This kind of academic debate continues today. Is it human rights, public goods, or private goods? After this document came out, it was very bold to say,’Education is a human right, a public interest, and should be open to everyone.’ “

An international organization drafted the document, which was developed after extensive consultations: Locke said that more than 200 organizations responded to questionnaires sent out as part of the drafting process.

The eight-member drafting team included a student representative from Brazil, Tamires Gomes Sampaio. In a virtual event celebrating the official release of the document last week, Sampaio stated that the new document “is a recognition that we are part of the university, not only as a passive subject, but also as an active participant in the construction and implementation of these principles defended by MCU. .”

Sijbolt Noorda, Honorary Chancellor and Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the University of Amsterdam, pointed out that the background of the new document is very different from the background of the original document. Commit to a brighter future.”

“If we were to describe today’s emotions, it would be the opposite to some extent,” Noorda said at the virtual event. “If we look at the map of university autonomy or the map of university academic freedom over the years, we will see more difficulties and deeper challenges every other year. The situation seems to be going downhill, not uphill.”

Noorda described the need to “reaffirm those basic beliefs, autonomy, and freedom” and “restate these, focusing on the current situation and the global environment.”

“We should also see that there are more than 20,000 universities in the world, many of which are driven by commercial interests, and many are driven by the very narrow interests of their owners; others are largely guided by them Driven by the direct interests of the ideology or political power,” he said. “So in these statements we made in the new Magna Carta, we plead for autonomy and freedom, we are also building a front, we are also fighting for these ideals, upholding and becoming values ​​in life. the University.”

Robert Quinn, the executive director of Scholars at Risk, an organization that monitors global academic freedom and helps scholars facing threats or persecution, is a former member of the Magna Carta Observatory Council. He said that despite the many challenges, there are people all over the world. A world that believes in academic freedom, university autonomy, and the necessity of universities to serve society.

“The most useful thing about Magna Carta is that it provides an opportunity for institutional leaders to stand up and say that we are part of this community, we agree with these values, and we want people to know that we agree with these values,” he said. “The Magna Carta becomes a magnet for them to move forward.”

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