The 2019 U21 AGM at the University of Maryland

AGM 2019 Group Shot

U21 enjoyed an interesting and productive AGM with the warm and generous hospitality of The University of Maryland (May 1-3 2019).  Presidents and Senior Leaders from U21 members met to discuss issues around ‘Globalisation, Isolationism and the Response in Higher Education’. 

Focus fell on how the Universitas 21 (U21) network can utilise its collaborative advantage to address the world's greatest global challenges. With nationalistic politics on the rise across the world and the challenges facing the planet, delegates considered the notion that there has never been a more pressing time to enhance cross-border collaboration in higher education. 

“Values in many of our countries, many of our cultures, are being challenged,” said Professor Sir David Eastwood, President of U21 and Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. “We serve as custodians of those values if we stand together. And U21 enables that. We're going to explore the ways, as a network, that we can enhance our efforts.” 

University of Maryland sign

The University of Maryland (UMD) showcased their ‘Do Good Institute’ which seeks to engage the entire student body in initiatives designed to ensure that every student who graduates from UMD will do so informed and motivated to ‘Do Good’ in their communities and around the world.  The stories that were told of re-purposing expensive drugs to help the developing world and Roots Africa which seeks to connect academics to farming communities in Africa in order to develop solutions together, captivated the audience and saw an immediate commitment to join the scheme from the University of Edinburgh. 

Four Case Studies were presented on the theme of the meeting; the University of Melbourne showcased their Global Learning Partnership work, the University of Nottingham, their Rights Lab; Waseda University demonstrated their work in Connecting Educational Institutions and Global Society through the UN’s SDGs and McMaster University spoke on their Peace and Reconciliation Network. 

Maryland AGM Symposium

The Presidential Symposium included a keynote by Allan Goodman, President of the Institute of International Education, on how nationalism and other “isms” challenge international education, particularly opportunities for refugees.  He said. “What we need is to find the Rhodes Scholars, the future leaders, the future Nobel Prize winners among refugee populations and develop the same kind of networking and educational experience for them where they are.”  

Delegates from all over the world had plenty of opportunity to network at the various social functions offered by UMD.  The most prestigious of these was the awards dinner held at The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Institution in the heart of Washington D.C.  Professor John Spinks, from the University of Hong Kong and Professor Kazuo Kuroda, from Waseda University, were presented with U21 Awards for their contribution to the Internationalisation of Higher Education. 

The four-day meeting culminated in a second keynote by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who encapsulated the spirit of U21 and its conversations at UMD: “To understand the world today, you cannot think in the box, you cannot think out of the box. Today, you must think without a box.” 

We look forward to an equally convivial and stimulating meeting at the University of Zurich, which will host the next U21 AGM from the 6th to 8th May 2020.