Higher education institutions are anchors for democracy

Without higher education’s commitment and leadership, we will not have real democracy. This was the primary conclusion of the Global Forum on Higher Education Leadership for Democracy, Sustainability and Social Justice held at Dublin City University in June.

Although this was the seventh Global Forum involving cooperation between the Council of Europe and the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy since 1999, it was the first under the Global Cooperation for the Democratic Mission of Higher Education, which also includes the Organization of American States and the International Association of Universities.

Attended by participants from 40 countries, the invitational conference was part of the programme of the Irish Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and was addressed by Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne.

In opening the Global Forum, Simon Harris, Ireland’s Minister for Further and Higher Education, underlined that the choice to attend university must be available to all, that education should be part of the public good and that any barriers should be removed.

This sentiment was echoed throughout the conference, as was the observation that the COVID-19 pandemic, while still very much with us, revealed and increased inequality.

Speakers hailed from Central, Eastern and Western Europe, across the US, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia, and included higher education leaders from a range of colleges and universities, national and international associations, public authorities and student unions.

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