Principal Deane signs Magna Charta Universitatum

Panel discusses the role universities play in society

Higher education representatives from 45 countries were present at the event in Bologna.

170 higher education leaders from 45 different countries assembled at the University of Bologna in Italy for the signing of the Magna Charta Universitatum (MCU), and a conference.

Principal Patrick Deane presided over the conference and signing in full Academic regalia—with a gown and hat—as the current President of the Magna Charta Observatory (MCO). The MCO protects and promotes the MCU, a document outlining key university values, like academic freedom and autonomy.

The three-day conference and ceremony closed with the Ceremony for the Signing of the MCU on Sept. 16. Universities commit to its principles during the signing and can sign it again to recommit to its values.

“Being a signatory is important because it’s a reference point for our values as a university and acts as a reminder to us of the premise upon which the university is founded,” Deane said in a press release.

Queen’s signed the MCU for the first time at the last in-person conference in 2019 at McMaster University. Deane was on the committee that revised the MCU in 2020 to more aptly reflect the role of universities in society, and in protecting the planet.

The theme of the conference was universities’ role in society during turbulent times. According to the press release, sustainable development goals and academic freedom were discussion points at the conference.

“We must defend these values because academic freedom and university autonomy are subject to challenge around the world [...] it is critically important that as an institution of higher learning in a free country we continue to talk about and promote these issues,” Deane said.

Deane moderated a panel discussion about university support for society during crises.

Roman Gryniuk, rector at the National University in Ukraine spoke on the panel, as did Vasyl’ Stus Donetsk, who travelled for over 38 hours by bus to attend, and Sibongile Muthwa, vice-chancellor and principal at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.

Speakers at the conference included Chris Brink, former vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, and Ron Daniels, president of John Hopkins University.

“Events like [this conference] strengthen our collective sense of unity and determination to uphold the values of the academy and the importance and nobility of our mission,” Deane said.

MCO holds frequent webinars, free of charge. The next webinar is on Oct. 6, where Gryniuk will discuss further the role of universities during crises.

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