As a society, we have the responsibility to the leave the world a little better than how we found it. It is not only what we do that we are held responsible for, but what we do not do as well. And just as individual citizens and multinational corporations, institutions of higher education have a social responsibility towards its community, its students, and the future that they will shape together.
As a part of the Magna Charta Observatory (MCO), a global signatories’ association that works towards engaging universities with the fundamental values they are built on, over 900 higher education institutions (HEIs) from around 86 different countries have joined the cause since its establishment in 1988. The Magna Charta Universitatum (MCU) or the Great Charter of Universities has recently been updated to a new version as MCU2020, reflecting the changes brought about in the landscape of higher education over the past few years. This has emphasized on the significance of a university’s social responsibility on the development of not only itself, but its community of students and staff for the impact they have on the society and its development in the long run. Themed on that very notion, the MCO hosted a webinar on the “Universities Responsibility to Society (USR)”, where nearly 140 representatives of esteemed universities from around the world participated in the interactive discussion.
Dr. Giga Zedania, the Rector of Ilia State University, Georgia, and the Chair of the MCO Research Committee, presided over the session as the moderator, inaugurating the session and introducing the respected speakers. The keynote speech on ‘Academic Responsibility & Universities’ Role in Society’, encouraging proactive engagement of universities with the society in order to further its progressive growth, was provided by Professor Chris Brink, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, UK and a member of the MCO Research Committee. Dr. Carmen Z. Lamagna, the Vice Chancellor of the American International University – Bangladesh (AIUB), Bangladesh, presented the ‘Case Study of AIUB on University Social Responsibility’, highlighted the frameworks of USR and the practices implemented by the institution in its academic curriculum, co-curricular activities, researches conducted, infrastructure, and administrative management. Professor Nalin Thakkar, the Vice President of the University of Manchester, UK, also presented the ‘Case Study on the University of Manchester’, elaborating on their approach to USR at the institution. Another presentation was made on the ‘Case Study of the University Social Responsibility Network’, by Mr. Robert Hollister, the Senior Advisor to the University Social Responsibility Network, which serves as an effective collaborative platform for its member institutions to spearhead USR strategies that contribute towards the betterment of the society and by extension, the evolving scenario of development around the globe.
After an enlightening Q&A segment between the esteemed speakers and intrigued participants, the session was concluded with the next step for HEIs in playing their integral role in ensuring societal welfare not just within their local context but through international collaboration moving forward.