WUN Annual Conferences & AGM 2017 in Amherst and New York

In the first week of May members of the Worldwide Universities Network gathered in Amherst and New York City for the annual WUN Conference and AGM 2017.

WUN meets sequentially in the Asia-Pacific, Europe-Africa and Americas regions, bringing together our global knowledge partnership to focus on major regional and international challenges. In doing so, we engage with universities, business, international agencies and NGO’s to align our research and education objectives to practical and policy objectives.

Representatives - including researchers, experts, administrators, practitioners and policymakers -from WUN’s 21 member universities and external partner organisations were given the opportunity to engage in academic workshops and the WUN AGM and Presidents Forum.

This year’s AGM provided a key opportunity for all stakeholders to form a fit-for-purpose strategic plan to carry WUN into the next decade.

Many longstanding members from the network were present, as well as representatives from WUN’s newest members— Renmin University of China, the University of Nairobi and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) and guests from the United Nations, the Institute of International Education, the  Ford Foundation,  the Rockefeller Foundation, IBM and others.

WUN’s annual flagship event addressed major themes such as ‘The role of higher education in reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals’, ‘Navigating the global skills crisis’ and ‘Partnerships and why they matter’.

The program involved an assessment of the SDGs 2017-20 in relation to WUN’s Global Challenges research framework, identifying opportunities for cooperation and exploration of the development of potential new WUN research programs and strengthening of current programs and activities including Research and Student Mobility.

The annual gathering further allowed members to gain insights into each other’s priorities, challenges, and strengths, and to be inspired by their community of collaboration. This annual event is unique in bringing together member universities’ Presidents to exchange their insights into university leadership and development.

This year’s programme included academic workshops in the areas of heritage and migration, public health and data science, inflammatory disease, and Sustainable Development Goals for higher education.

Read more about the WUN Heritage Workshop The Role of Heritage in Migration and Displacement

Read more about the WUN GHEAR Workshop Sustainable Development Goals for Higher Education

Read more about the WUN Workshop on Wellness Data for Healthy Societies

Read more about the WUN in-FLAME Global Network

Following the academic conferences, the WUN leadership and participants focused on the business of the network and the Annual General Meeting.

Main topics for the discussions were the review of the strategic plan, future direction of the network and the framework of WUN’s four Global Challenges: Responding to Climate Change, Global Higher Education and Research (GHEAR), Public Health (Non-communicable Disease) and Understanding Cultures; and the four cross-cutting themes: Economics, Data Sciences, Global Africa Group and Global China Group

The outcomes are -  

(i) WUN Global Challenge Groups will align research programs closely with the relevant Sustainable Development Goals. The Groups will complete analysis and adjustment of priorities in 6 months and adjust investment of the RDF and other resources as appropriate towards the resulting priorities.

(ii) WUN Cross Cutting Themes will be merged with and facilitate the Global Challenge Groups, thereby simplifying the structure and a more integrated teamwork.

(iii) WUN will increase its mobility programs for postgraduate and early career researchers through the RMP, while extending opportunities in a new program for undergraduate student mobility. A working group will bring a proposal and business plan to AAG and the Partnership Board in 6 months.

(iv) WUN Engagement programs will be enhanced, building alliances further with universities, business, governments, international agencies and NGO’s. There will be a stronger program of communication using traditional and contemporary methods in publication, articles and thought pieces, regular and social media.

Next Steps: These and other strategic directions will be developed urgently and reflected in the annual reports and communications with WUN members and stakeholders. The changes in direction, ambitions and expansions, will need to be developed carefully in matching objectives and programs with resources and budget.

The week concluded with the Presidents Forum on Friday 5 May.

WUN Presidents and experts as well as distinguished VIP guest speakers including Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University), Dr Allan E Goodman (Institute of International Education), Mr Shantanu Mukherjee and Mr John Sebesta (UN), Ms Irene Braam (Bertelsmann Foundation), Mr David Barth (Ford Foundation), Ms Claudia Juech (Rockefeller Foundation)  and Mr Michael King (IBM) gathered for the seventh edition of the WUN President Forum.

This annual symposium facilitates an understanding of strategy and policy priorities, as well as partnerships in research and education between the university leaders. The topic of this year’s forum was Higher Education and the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs identified priorities for global action around the SDGs including global funding for education, health systems (especially community-based health delivery with ICTs), modern energy services, the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and a global protection of biodiversity. Defined areas for university leadership in the SDGs are Education, policy analysis and R&D for sustainable development, incubation of new businesses, and the convening of sustainable development stakeholders.

Executive Director of WUN, Professor John Hearn, said that WUN is playing and can engage much more in these developments “For example, in the adoption of non-communicable diseases in Public Health with WHO and the Sustainability Goals; the COP22 developments though our WUN Responding to Climate Change Group; the enhanced emphasis on Higher Education and economic development through the WUN Higher Education Group with OECD, British Council and the Association of Commonwealth Universities; and in Understanding Cultures through our Global China and Global Africa Groups, and in our close association with the International Organisation for Migration.”

The WUN Presidents, Vice Presidents and disciplinary experts form an international think tank in these arenas.

View the Presidents Forum programme.

The outcomes of the Presidents Forum, the academic workshop and WUN AGM 2017 will be published and circulated. These will be followed up with the new strategic plan, strategic workshop initiatives, and seed funding of research.

The next WUN Conference & AGM will take place in Beijing from 20-25 May 2018.