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Queen’s signs the Magna Charta Universitatum

  • Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane signs Magna Charta
    Principal Patrick Deane signs the Magna Charta Universitatum during an event hosted at McMaster University on Oct. 17. (Supplied photo)
  • Participants in the Magna Charta signing gather for a photo
    The newest signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum gather for a group photo. (Supplied photo)
  • Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane speaks after signing the Magna Charta
    Queen's Principal Patrick Deane delivers the keynote address following the signing ceremony at the Magna Charta Observatory Conference on Oct. 17. (Supplied photo)
  • Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane signs Magna Charta
    Patrick Deane, along with The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who presided over the signing ceremony, and Dr. Sijbolt Noorda, President Emeritus of the University of Amsterdam and current President of the Magna Charta Observatory Council. (Supplied photo)

Queen’s University is one of the newest signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum, joining a collective of close to 900 universities around the globe. Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane signed the document at a ceremony closing the Magna Charta Observatory’s annual conference, held for the first time in North America at McMaster University in Hamilton on Oct. 17.

The Magna Charta Universitatum celebrates the deepest values of university traditions such as academic freedom, autonomy, integration of teaching and research, social responsibility, among others, and unites universities through these common bonds.

“I am especially proud to have been able to sign the Magna Charta on behalf of Queen’s and feel privileged to have done so in the company of distinguished colleagues from around the world,” says Principal Deane.

The Magna Charta was first created and signed in 1988 at the University of Bologna and originally focused largely on issues facing European universities. Since then, universities around the world have signed the document. Queen’s is one of only 10 Canadian institutions to sign and in doing so, agrees to uphold the traditions and principles set out in the document and joins a global collective working to ensure the strength of the university model.

In 1998, the Magna Charta Observatory (MCO) was formed to oversee the health of universities and ensure the principles of the original document were being upheld. The MCO holds an annual conference focused on issues facing universities globally. The theme of this year’s conference was “Universities: Their Freedoms and Responsibilities: The Challenge of the Future.”

At the signing ceremony, Queen’s was one of 16 universities to sign and the only one from Canada. Other universities at this year’s ceremony were from France, Belgium, Albania, Austria, Hungary, Georgia, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Germany, Ukraine, and Australia. Following the signing Deane delivered the keynote address (read his speech) stressing the importance of solidarity amongst universities in advancing knowledge and research, and the responsibilities they have to the future of society and our planet.

“Signing the Magna Charta may seem like a small thing, but it really matters,” says Principal Deane. “The conference sessions were fantastic. I particularly enjoyed Sigal Ben-Porath’s keynote on free speech and feel her book, ‘Free speech on campus,’ is the best written on the subject.”

The university’s Rector, Alex Da Silva, and Chancellor Jim Leech, attended the conference with the principal.

Principal Deane is also a member of the governing council of the MCO and is on a working committee that stayed after the conference to rewrite the Magna Charta document to reflect the more global composition of its membership and the changing nature of universities including their relationships with communities and engagement in social justice issues. The next iteration of the Magna Charta will be signed by all members at the 2020 conference at the University of Bologna in September.  

Read the Magna Charta Universitatum