Magna Charta Universitatum 2020

Bologna, 12 Mar 2020


The Magna Charta Universitatum, a declaration and affirmation of the fundamental principles upon which the mission of universities should be based, was signed in 1988 on the occasion of the 900th anniversary of the University of Bologna. The first principle was independence: research and teaching must be intellectually and morally independent of all political influence and economic interests. The second was that teaching and research should be inseparable, with students engaged in the search for knowledge and greater understanding. The third principle identified the university as a site for free enquiry and debate, distinguished by its openness to dialogue and rejection of intolerance.

The Magna Charta Universitatum recognised that universities upholding these principles could take many forms under the combined influence of culture, geography and history. Despite being explicitly the product of a specific moment in European development the document envisaged a networked world in which knowledge and influence should cross cultural boundaries in the pursuit of human understanding.

The world has since become interconnected in ways unimaginable at the time of the original declaration. Universities have proliferated around the globe, dramatically increasing in variety as well as scope and mission. Globally the number and diversity of students seeking a university education has increased, as have their reasons for doing so and the expectations of their families and communities. The number of publications has increased enormously while trust in academia is being eroded by a loss of confidence in expertise. In the sway of new technologies, modes of learning, teaching and research are changing rapidly; universities are both leading and responding to these developments.

Despite these changes, the potential of higher education to be a positive agent of change and social transformation endures. The principles laid out in the Magna Charta Universitatum are as valid today as they were in 1988, and they are the necessary precondition for human advancement through enquiry, analysis and sound action. The dramatic changes outlined above require the global academy to identify responsibilities and commitments that the signatories agree are vital to universities around the world in the Twenty-First Century. That is the reason for this new declaration.

Principles, Values and Responsibilities

Universities acknowledge that they have a responsibility to engage with and respond to the aspirations and challenges of the world and to the communities they serve, to benefit humanity and contribute to sustainability.

Intellectual and moral autonomy is the hallmark of any university and a precondition for the fulfilment of its responsibilities to society. That independence needs to be recognised and protected by governments and society at large, and defended vigorously by institutions themselves.

To fulfil their potential, universities require a reliable social contract with civil society, one which supports pursuit of the highest possible quality of academic work, with full respect for institutional autonomy.

As they create and disseminate knowledge, universities question dogmas and established doctrines and encourage critical thinking in all students and scholars. Academic freedom is their lifeblood; open enquiry and dialogue their nourishment.

Universities embrace their duty to teach and undertake research ethically and with integrity, producing reliable, trustworthy and accessible results.

Universities have a civic role and responsibility. They are part of global, collegial networks of scientific enquiry and scholarship, building on shared bodies of knowledge and contributing to their further development. They also are embedded in local cultures and crucially relevant to their future and enrichment. While they are immersed in and connected with global developments, they engage fully with and assume leading roles in local communities and ecosystems.

Universities are non-discriminatory spaces of tolerance and respect where diversity of perspectives flourishes and where inclusivity, anchored in principles of equity and fairness, prevails. They therefore commit themselves to advance equity and fairness in all aspects of academic life including admissions, hiring and promotion practices.

Education is a human right, a public good, and should be available to all. Universities recognise that learning is a lifelong activity with tertiary education as one part of a continuum. Within that one part, universities serve diverse learners at all stages of their lives.

Universities acknowledge that individuals and communities, often due to inequitable circumstances, have difficulty gaining access to higher education or influencing the modes and matter of academic study. To realise human potential everywhere, universities deliberately seek ways to welcome and engage with diverse voices and perspectives.

By signing the Magna Charta Universitatum 2020 universities declare their
commitment to the original declaration and to upholding and advancing the Principles,
Values and Responsibilities stated above, to strengthen the role of universities in the
preservation of the planet and promoting health, prosperity, and enlightenment
around the world.

Approved by the Governing Council 12 March 2020

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