The Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi) has produced a series of influential reports on the state of higher education over the past 10 years. Each report has had a different focus, from financing and administration in the early years to social and economic impact, sustainable development, and knowledge democracy for reports 3,4 and 5. Our UNESCO Chair has been a close partner of GUNi over the past years, taking a particularly active role with the fifth report, Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education Contributing to Social Change. Cristina Esgrigas, the former Director of GUNi, was the intellectual inspiration behind reports 3-5 and a source of quite remarkable transformative energy. With the organisational shift of GUNi from its previous home with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia to its current home as part of the Association of Catalonian Universities (ACUP), Cristina has made a shift to independent work in the Basque region of Spain.
World Report 6 has been imagined and guided by Prof. Francesc Xavier Grau, former Rector of Rovira I Virgili University in Taragona. It is importantly the first of the World Reports to be available as a free downloadable report. His vision for WRHE6 has been to provide senior higher education and governmental leaders with practical ideas about how to balance the tensions between global and local demands within a social responsibility framework. Others working with Prof. Grau have been Drs. John Goddard, noted for his work on the ‘civic university’, Ellen Hazelkorn, one of the leading scholars on the global rankings situation, Rajesh Tandon, global civil society authority and Budd Hall, also along with Rajesh, co-leader of the UNESCO Chair.
The report provides an in-depth introduction to the contexts and needs behind the call for a socially responsible university. But arguably the most valuable and fresh aspects of the report are the contributions from scholars, administrators and higher education authorities from all continents of the world. There are 70 authors from 28 countries with 40% women. Amongst them are Rectors, Presidents, Directors, University Chairs, Researchers, students and activists. Topics covered include transforming the 21st century curriculum, developing new social contracts between communities and universities, incentives for academics, local and global citizenship, the special role of cities, contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, engagement vs rankings, changing discourses on knowledge, governance of engaged universities, linking economics and sustainability. The content contains practical examples of how the balance between the global and the local can be achieved.
The path to success for most universities lies in embracing one’s own Community.
Alliances and networks are an important enabler for higher education.
Collaboration is the best way to maximize capability beyond individual capacity.
Recognition and incentives for student engagement should be incorporated in the curriculum design
Universities must at the same time be recognized as civic, entrepreneurial, innovative, flagship and globally competitive, and both locally and globally engaged..