In June, Masaryk University signed the new version of the Magna Charta Universitatum, which defines the fundamental values and principles upon which free academic institutions stand. This declaration was originally created in 1988 to mark the 900th anniversary of the University of Bologna. Thus far, it has been signed by more than 900 universities from 88 countries. The new Magna Charta was officially presented at a virtual meeting of universities, which was held on 16–17 June 2021. It was originally supposed to be signed by the rectors of global universities last spring in Bologna.
According to the Magna Charta Universitatum of 1988, the basic principles of academic institutions include independence from all political authority and economic power, the indivisibility of research and teaching, freedom in teaching and research, tolerance, open dialogue, and the constant effort to attain universal knowledge. The new version of the Magna Charta contains additional fundamental principles and values: universities must be socially responsible, benefit humanity, respond to contemporary challenges, and contribute to sustainability.
The new Magna Charta also emphasizes that education is a lifelong process and a basic human right that must be accessible to all. According to the Magna Charta, universities should encourage critical thinking in students and researchers, and science and research should produce results that are reliable, trustworthy, and accessible.
“By signing this declaration, Masaryk University has not only reaffirmed the values and principles upon which we stand as a free institution, but, like hundreds of other universities throughout the world, we have also committed ourselves to strengthening the role we play in society, to protecting the planet and human health, and to disseminating knowledge all over the world,” says Masaryk University rector, Martin Bareš.
The new Magna Charta was created mainly in response to the dramatic changes that have occurred in research and education since the original Magna Charta was written 33 years ago. Since then, the world has become interconnected in ways unimaginable in 1988, and new technologies have had major impacts on both research and teaching. The number of students seeking a university education globally has increased significantly, as has the number of academic publications. At the same time though society has lost confidence in expertise. Universities, however, have maintained their position as a major agent of positive change, and therefore higher education institutes must identify their fundamental responsibilities and commitments to society and the world, and confirm them by signing the declaration.
“Masaryk University was one of the signatories of the original Magna Charta, and it is an honour for us to sign it once again. One of the critical means through which the university fulfills its role is internationalization and international cooperation in teaching and research. This is something that we must always remind ourselves of, especially in these difficult days of the pandemic, if we want universities throughout the world to be headed in the right direction,” notes Masaryk University vice-rector for internationalization, Břetislav Dančák.