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Queen’s to join universities around the world in signing Magna Charta Universitatum 2020

Free virtual conference explores university values and responsibilities.

Principal Patrick Deane signs the Magna Charta Universitatum during an event hosted at McMaster University on Oct. 17. (Supplied photo)
Principal Patrick Deane speaks at a signing event for the Magna Charta Universitatum, hosted at McMaster University on Oct. 17, 2019. (Supplied photo)

On June 16 and 17, Principal Patrick Deane will join other global university leaders in a virtual forum to celebrate the launch and signing of the new Magna Charta Universitatum (MCU) 2020. The signing event will happen during a two-day online conference examining ways in which the values and responsibilities laid out in the MCU 2020 address challenges and pressures facing universities today.  

The MCU 2020 is a declaration and affirmation of the fundamental principles upon which the mission of universities world-wide should be based. It underlines the key principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy as set out in the original 1988 document, but has been expanded to reflect the global nature of universities today and their responsibilities to the communities they serve to benefit humanity and contribute to sustainability. By signing the MCU 2020, universities are united by these principles and responsibilities and help strengthen the role of universities in the preservation of the planet and in promoting health, prosperity, and enlightenment around the world.

“Universities exist to serve the public good, a notion which the original document supported, though somewhat less explicitly. Furthermore, that document was very much focused on issues facing European universities. In the new declaration, the fundamental principles of independence, the necessary connection between teaching and research, and free enquiry remain; but greater focus on diversity, inclusion, community engagement, access to education and sustainable development reflects the current environment in which universities around the world operate,” says Principal Deane, who was a member of the committee that drafted the MCU 2020.

Principal Deane will take on the role as President of the Governing Council of the Magna Charta Observatory (MCO) on June 14 and is the first university leader from the Americas to lead the organization. The MCO is the global guardian and foundation that works to promote and defend the principles laid out in the MCU and MCU 2020.

In addition to offering an opportunity to witness the signing ceremony – a ‘once in a generation’ event – the virtual conference is focused on the theme of, “University values and responsibilities: responding to the challenges of the future.” Conference speakers will offer global perspectives on the obligations and obstacles facing universities today and how the MCU 2020 responds to them. Of interest to all university leaders, professionals, academics and students across the globe (whether their institution has signed the MCU 2020 or not), the conference will enable attendees to learn from each other, and celebrate universities and their impact in the world.

Registration for this event is free and open now.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the new MCU 2020 was planned to be launched in-person at the annual anniversary signing event at the University of Bologna in Italy. Due to continuing travel restrictions and public health requirements related to the pandemic, the MCO decided to launch the new MCU 2020 through a virtual platform.

Speaker spotlight

The conference will feature a number of global higher education leaders, including Principal Patrick Deane who will speak about the new MCU 2020 and how it can benefit universities and societies. Of particular interest will be Michael Ignatieff’s presentation as president of the Central European University, which was forced to relocate its operations from Budapest to Vienna in 2018 as a result of political conflict between its founder, George Soros, and the Hungarian President, Victor Orbán. That universities should function free from state coercion and influence is of course one of the key principles of the MCU.

Here is a look at just some of the speakers and their topics: