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Presidents Declared Future of Global Universities

  • October 13, 2007
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SNU celebrated its 61st anniversary of foundation by opening a conference titled"The Global University Presidents' Summit".  Leaders of 7 international 'research universities' gathered at the Hoam Faculty Club at SNU Gwanak Campus.

The summit's objectives were to highlight the need for international cooperation between technology production driven universities by sharing details of the individual strategies each university takes in furthering their own agendas in a national and international context.
Some key topics were the distinction between educational and research driven strategies, public funding by, and governing autonomy from governments as well as the signing of the ¨Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Global Research University.〃
In addition to the declaration, there were 6 presentations given by the academic leaders during the summit. Common themes touched on by the speakers were the role of research universities in current society, the future of the research university and the system of management of university to meet the changing needs of society and the university itself in relation to established roles and functions.

President Jang-Moo Lee opened the speaking sessions of the summit with a speech titled ¨The Future of Universities and Academic Research〃. Dr. Lee…s speech began by commenting on the future of universities and the obstacles they face as public institutions which society increasingly expects to be ¨key actors that lead social change〃, making ¨greater contributions to local economies and national competitiveness alike〃. He said universities should also receive more public resources in being an ¨essentially public institution,〃 but also require a certain amount of autonomy from the government in governing itself in order to encourage creativity in turn for increased education and research quality.

Vice Chancellor Gavin Brown of the University of Sydney focused his speech on ¨Defining strategy for the research university,〃 citing the national and international context universities, including his own, fit into. He stressed the importance of research objectives which were specifically orientated and guided by ¨a light influence from government,〃 but that universities in the end needed the responsibility of defining most of their own strategy in financial and academic contexts. Professor Brown also emphasized that, despite being satisfied to call his own university a ¨research university,〃 the need to bring the scope of education as much outside the classroom as inside, involving students in extra-curricular activities such as sport and debate.

Vice President of Research of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Professor Michael Linscheid emphasized the need for an ¨integrative research institute〃 approach, using the keyword ¨translation〃 in highlighting the need to shift and adapt universities to ¨tailored teaching and research loads and to the involvement of students at all levels in the research process.〃 To do this, he said, a holistic approach is required and needs the support of an ¨internationalized administrative structure which reaches out to international students and scholars at all levels in their career.〃

Dr. Kurt Kutzler, President of the Technical university of Berlin noted the distinction between the classical ¨comprehensive〃 universities (which taught subjects such as law, the humanities, medicine and natural sciences), and the ¨technology〃 institute is Germany, as well as the gradual integration of the two types in Germany in the late 1960s. He used this to outline his strategy for an integrated approach to research and development; the possible problems it could tackle in terms of the specific challenges facing humanity (from knowledge management to water and energy issues) and the governing methods required to make this integrative approach successful.

President of the University of Tokyo, Dr. Hiroshi Komiyama, tied the ideas of his speech down to real world problems currently faced by humanity, and the proposed solutions to them, especially those adopted by his country. He said environment destruction and the depletion of resources was now a problem faced globally and this was due to ¨humanity…s rapid production activities.〃 To combat this, he commented on how Japan had established the Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), carrying out research into the ¨realization of high energy efficiency, the development of new sources of energy, and the innovations in technology for a recyclable, sustainable society.〃 Dr. Komiyama also touched on the fragmentation of knowledge as a result of the dramatic specialization of it, and the influence globalization is having on education policies.

Professor David Leebron, President of Rice University concluded the speaking session with an analysis of the complex relationship universities have with government and industry. He said the real decrease in funding by government on research universities is slowly forcing them to look elsewhere for its funding, including donations, grants and industry. And as a result, in order to pursue this funding successfully, universities may result in ¨making decisions about research that are not fundamentally different from those made by industry.〃 This might lead to universities becoming more ¨competitive, collaborative and global〃 in their search for talent in faculty and students. The implications this may have on how the research university views itself and runs is large in the context of what he has mentioned to be the relationship universities have with government and industry.

After the presentation and an hour of roundtable discussion, 7 presidents held a joint communique and press conference. They announced ¨Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Global Research University〃 as below.

Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Global Research University

At the core of the universities in the 21st century lie the following pillars: quality in education and research, in staff and students. We want to promote multidsciplinality, shared responsibility for academic advancement in research and education, internationality in its broadest possible definition. We want to promote research and education in all fields that advance the human spirit and achievement, deal with the future threats and create opportunities for humanity. Universities are committed to make a significant impact on the local, national and international communities.

Construction of Inter-disciplinary Knowledge
We commit to bringing knowledge building to the global level. We strive for excellence in research, education and in the student experience. We seek to promote inter-disciplinary research and we encourage a frame of mind in which teaching and research must have a broader research than the precise fields of the individual academics. We must look for a solution to one of the major issues we face today regarding humanity: sustainability. Segmented academic disciplines with little interaction with other academic fields must open up and incorporate a wide range of perspectives and positions. Establishment of long-term cooperation programs integrating several relevant disciplines and partners and thereby creating comprehensive competencies will contribute to knowledge building.

Globalization
We commit to education that will enable our students to work and lead in a globalized world. To achieve this, a university has to be international in all of its important aspects: its students and scholars, its educational programs and its research mission. Both competition and cooperation among universities help us to achieve academic excellence. Although universities must think and act globally, this cannot be effective unless we find mechanisms that preserve their local identity and culture.

Tackling the Big Issues
We commit to university education and research that seeks to transcend narrow short term problems of political, economic and social concerns in order to address the significant problems that face humanity. We encourage researchers to contribute to the shared prosperity of humankind and to cultural development and understanding. We must strive to focus on the international and long term problems guided by the needs of world social developments and nature.

Autonomy
In order to achieve these goals, universities need a significantly autonomous environment for research and education. We welcome lighter influence from government, while we are ready to take on heavier responsibility and accountability. We must keep in mind that excessive intervention can lead to a decrease in innovation at the university level which eventually can cause depreciation in the quality of research and education.

October 12, 2007
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