IAU invites its Members and the global higher education community to rethink and reimagine higher education for the future. Universities are traditional and modern, conservative and progressive, inclusive and exclusive. Universities have no boundaries; they are institutions of tremendous influence that transcend geographical, social, and cultural limits. Over centuries of existence, they have adapted to externally imposed regulations, norms and pressures and have been responsive to societal expectations and changes in their environment. Their conceptual space is the global landscape of knowledge and ideas. Even when faced with limited financial resources, universities operate from a position of intellectual abundance, wielding tremendous power and influence. Universities are uniquely placed to propose solutions and develop opportunities. They are called to actively shape the local and global agendas as agents of change.
Facing the future certainly also means overcoming local and global challenges: pandemics and their multifarious consequences, climate change and ecological crisis, the depletion of natural resources, growing social and economic inequality, disruptive technologies and labour markets, loss of human and democratic rights, scepticism of the scientific process. The value and relevance of universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) also hinges on how they address issues of inequality, intolerance, xenophobia, racism, social injustice, human rights violations, the possibility of ecological collapse and weakening democracy. The IAU 16th General Conference will debate how the higher education sector can engage in a meaningful and system-wide discussion on these issues. What are new models and strategies of engagement across the sector and at local, national regional and global level to better cooperate and synergise resources?