International conference focuses on the institutional impact of values

19 January 2017

International conference focuses on the institutional impact of values

GCU is hosting the event in partnership with the Magna Charta Observatory, Bologna

The importance of values particularly in today’s society is a key theme of an international conference held at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) today (January 19).

Vice-Chancellors and other senior representatives of universities from more than 20 countries have gathered for the two-day ‘Fundamental and Institutional Values in Practice’ conference, hosted in partnership with the prestigious Magna Charta Observatory of Fundamental Values and Rights.

Delegates from universities across Europe, and from Egypt and Australia, will share experiences of embedding their institutional values, as well as the fundamental Magna Charta principles of openness, academic freedom, institutional autonomy and civic responsibility.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE welcomed delegates and emphasised the importance of fundamental and institutional values in a time of rising extremist and populist forces, political instability and economic challenges.

Professor Gillies said: “Against such a backdrop, it is vital that universities remain bastions of free thought; that we can continue, unhindered, to seek to understand how societies work and are governed, and how they can be changed for the benefit of the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all our citizens.

“In these turbulent times, it is our values that will provide the solid foundation on which our universities will remain strong, stable and open to ideas.”

Dr Sijbolt Noorda, President of the Magna Charta Observatory, spoke of the challenges “in a world of individual interests and a lack of heartfelt unity” where institutions’ autonomy and academic freedom could be seen as a privilege, rather than an enabler for common good.

Keynote speaker Richard Sermon MBE, Chairman of the City Values Forum, drew parallels with and shared lessons from the financial sector, where he has been involved in a major project to embed institutional values in banks and other financial institutions.

Mr Sermon said: “In a post-truth world, values matter more than ever before.

“In business, values matter because they have an impact on revenue, reputation and resilience. There are parallels in higher education and these principles remain valid.”

The Magna Charta Universitatum – a document containing those principles, as guidelines for good governance – was established on 18 September 1988: the 900th anniversary of the University of Bologna, the world’s first university. To date, the Magna Charta Universitatum has been signed by 805 universities from 85 countries.

As the advisory body, the Magna Charta Observatory works to promote the principles and provides guidance to the community of signatories to assist them in operating in accordance with those principles.