Engaged and responsible universities shaping Europe

Credits: © UZH; Stefan Walter

The 2018 EUA Annual Conference discussed universities' pivotal role in generating knowledge, developing intercultural understanding and fostering civic engagement through their core missions.

EUA 2018 Annual Conference: Engaged and responsible universities shaping Europe

Universities, through their core missions of education, research, and innovation, are key drivers of knowledge societies. Europe is currently facing challenges including social and educational inequality, demographic changes and new migration patterns. The rise of populism means increasing distrust in scientific arguments while political conflicts risk threatening democracy and other shared European values. In this context, universities have a pivotal role to play in generating knowledge, developing intercultural understanding and fostering civic engagement through their core missions.

There is a growing awareness of the social and ethical impact of universities’ activities on society. Universities are educating an ever more diverse student population in the hope that they become informed citizens, able to respond to the changing needs of society and the labour market. In addition to producing new knowledge through research, universities focus on the dissemination of this knowledge and its utilisation in scientific and technological innovation. Nevertheless, in order to demonstrate accountability and justify continued public investment in higher education and research, universities need to redouble their efforts to express the importance of their contribution to society and the need for evidence-based discussions enshrined by scientific integrity and ethics.

The EUA Annual Conference built upon EUA’s work with its members on various topics linked to the societal mission of universities. It provided participants an opportunity to explore how universities across Europe demonstrate their social responsibility by ensuring that their activities contribute to shaping society at large. The conference included examples of institutional practices, national and European policies and initiatives that bear evidence of today’s engaged and responsible universities.


  • Day 1

    12.00 - 13.30
    Conference opening: Universities in knowledge societies

    Opening remarks by Rolf Tarrach, EUA President and Michael Hengartner, Rector, University of Zurich, Switzerland
    Keynote presentation by Ulrike Felt, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria

    14.30 - 16.00
    Plenary II: The role of public policies driving universities’ social responsibility and engagement

    David Sweeney, Executive Chair, Research England, UK
    Stanislav Kme, Rector, Technical University of Košice, Slovakia
    Pastora Martnez Samper, Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation, Open University of Catalonia, Spain
    Chaired by Lesley Wilson, EUA Secretary General

    16.30 - 18.00
    Breakout sessions I

    Session A: Social inclusiveness and diversity in higher education
    Introduction by Thomas Jrgensen, EUA Senior Policy Coordinator
    Colin Scott, Vice-president for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, University College Dublin, Ireland
    Chaired by Mari Sundli Tveit, EUA Board member

    Session B: The societal impact of Open Science
    Introduction by Lidia Borrell-Damin, Director, EUA Research and Innovation Unit
    Jean-Pierre Finance, EUA Chair of Expert Group on Science 2.0/Open Science
    Chaired by Jean Chambaz, EUA Board member

    Session C: Universities upholding academic values
    Facilitated by Liviu Matei, Provost and Pro-Rector, Central European University, Hungary

  • Day 2

    9.00 - 10.30
    Breakout sessions II

    Session D: Higher education beyond the traditional cycles: lifelong learning and employability
    Introduction by Michael Gaebel, Director, EUA Higher Education Policy Unit
    Hanne Smidt, EUA senior adviser
    Chaired by Hana Machkov, EUA Board member

    Session E: Contributing to Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies
    Universities are becoming crucial stakeholders in regional innovation ecosystems. 
    Introduction by Peter Haring Bolvar, Chair of the EUA Expert Group on RIS3
    Jaume Carot, Vice-Rector for Research and Internationalisation, University of Balearic Islands, Spain
    Chaired by Wieslaw Banyś, EUA Board member

    Session F: Scientific integrity and ethics in European universities
    Facilitated by Ulrike Felt, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria

    11.00 - 12.20
    Plenary III: Sustainable Europe: What role for universities?

    Hilligje van’t Land, Secretary General, International Association of Universities
    Torbjørn Digernes, Chair of the EUA Energy and Environment Platform, former rector, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
    Christoph Franz, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Roche Holding AG, Switzerland
    Facilitated by Michael Murphy, EUA Board member

    12.20 - 12.45
    Address by Silvia Steiner, Government Councillor of Canton Zurich and President of Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education
    12.45 - 13.00
    Conference closing and the invitation to the Annual Conference 2019
    14.00 - 15.30
    EUA Hot Topic Session

    Introduction by Daniel Wyler, Professor, University of Zurich, Switzerland
    Kevin Schawinski, Assistant Professor, Leader of the black hole and galaxy astrophysics group, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
    Sabine Stoll, Professor, Director of the Psycholinguistics Laboratory, University of Zurich, Switzerland
    Julia Altenbuchner, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) Research Group, University College London
    Facilitated by Lidia Borrell-Damián, Director, EUA Research and Innovation Unit

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