December 19, 2021

Universities’ role in promoting European values in challenging times

The year 2021 has been yet another test for humanity to deal with nature’s challenges – pandemics and climate change – and those socioeconomic that followed. We realized how vulnerable we genuinely are, that irrationality and ignorance are deeply rooted in our social and cognitive systems. Still, we also witnessed the strength of the rational human mind and solidarity. I hope we have learned our lesson: nature must not be taken for granted. We must understand it through science and continue looking for answers for our coexistence. In YERUN, we also know that perhaps more than ever before, universities have a historically unique social responsibility for preserving the European idea and fostering the European virtues of peace, harmony, solidarity, and enlightenment. 

The deep cleavage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further polarized society, and citizens protesting against the social elites have brought into question our societies’ trust in science. This illustration of the culture of ignorance and alternative facts must mobilize our massive collective intelligence in YERUN to develop democratic competencies, digital citizenship, the green transition, and transform our system. Competencies for the future for our students, living in a world where education for well-paid jobs is no longer offered only by universities, must be developed through personalized, flexible, and international curricula. We must fortify the achieved steps towards open science with a holistic approach to research and general academic career assessments. Finally, we should continuously develop trust in science through transfer-oriented research and community-engaged universities committed to authentic social innovation.

After the extraordinary chairmanship of YERUN’s former president Bernd Scholz-Reiter, I am particularly honored by being unanimously chosen for YERUN’s new president at the end of this challenging year. Our network of young research universities is invaluable for all of us because, through our shared vision, strategic goals, and the culture of disseminating knowledge, it multiplies our individual influences. Our collaboration also multiplies our collective contribution to universities’ transformational agenda for the future of Europe – the central feature of the new European strategy for universities expected at the beginning of the following year. 

With that in mind, it is my pleasure to wish all YERUN’s members – our students, teachers, researchers, and staff – a healthy, prosperous and flourishing 2022.                                                                   

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