By Professor Oliver Vitouch, President of the University of Klagenfurt
Worldwide, 1.1 billion people were considered extremely poor in 2010. Following setbacks during the pandemic years, this figure stands at 690 million people in 2023. Yet still, every single poor person is one too many. Yet still, the Global South remains significantly underprivileged compared to the North. Yet still, the trend remains fragile, as new and re-emerging conflicts and the alarming scenarios accompanying climate change keep adding fresh torment. Nonetheless, there is good news: Fewer and fewer people around the world are forced to live under the harsh conditions of extreme poverty.
One of the most important keys to combating global poverty is education. Universities provide an essential contribution by working towards a better world every single day. Researchers use new knowledge to solve problems; and they share their knowledge. This work has an impact that extends far beyond individual regions. From 2024, we will be training experts in Global Citizenship Education here at the University of Klagenfurt. The UNESCO Chair responsible for the programme, based at our university, is anchored upon a central premise: Everything is connected to everything else. We need to educate people to become responsible and active global citizens who can proactively strive for a fairer world in a globalised era.
Young people embarking on their studies abroad effectively contribute to the rapid expansion and consolidation of the global network of knowledge. Consequently, our universities are becoming increasingly international. The number of international students at the University of Klagenfurt now stands at approximately 30 per cent. One excellent example here in Klagenfurt is the Bachelor’s degree programme in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, which was launched in 2022 and is now attended by around 140 students from 33 countries. In recognition of this remarkable diversity, our students awarded us the Global Student Satisfaction Award in 2023.
From the outset, universities have always pursued grand goals: By harnessing the power of many bright minds, we seek to understand the essence of what holds the world together. We strive for understanding in order to provide humankind with the tools to improve the lives of all. The decline in extreme poverty reminds us of this: When we are willing to use our knowledge, there is less of a need to pin our hopes on Christmas. It’s in our own hands to make the world a better place.
The University of Klagenfurt wishes all partners in the YERUN network a peaceful holiday season and good cheer for 2024!