On 17 and 18 September, I was in Bologna together with the first rector of UVic-UCC, Ricard Torrents; the Vice-Rector for Institutional Relations, Joan Masnou, and Núria Garcia, a student of the Faculty of Education, Translation and Humanities, in order to sign the Magna Charta Universitatum. The University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia, only 18 years after its foundation, is now one of the 800 signatories worldwide. The ceremony took place at the University of Bologna during the annual conference of the Magna Charta Observatory.
With its signature UVic-UCC has joined the universities in Europe and around the world that have thus pledged their commitment to cultural development, science and technology; to the spread of knowledge among the young people; to continuing education to enhance the cultural and economic future of society; and to respect for a sustainable environment and lifestyle.
Signing the Magna Charta Universitatum implies an institutional commitment to safeguarding the fundamental principles of the university, among which are university autonomy, the link between teaching and research, and freedom of research, education and training. Furthermore, as a custodian of the European humanist tradition, the university undertakes to strive for universal knowledge through mutual understanding and interaction between cultures. UVic-UCC is committed to developing the tools needed to enact these principles.
The Magna Charta Universitatum dates back to 18 September 1988, when in the presence of many political leaders and public figures 388 rectors from around the world signed the original Magna Charta Universitatum. Since then, the Magna Charta Universitatum has become a beacon for the principles and values of universities around the world and maintains its significance for the present-day mission of universities worldwide.
The Magna Charta Observatory, a non-profit organisation founded by the University of Bologna and the European University Association, organises a yearly international conference to discuss new challenges and defend basic university values. The theme of this year’s conference was the challenges confronting students in conflict zones around the world and the response of universities to preserve their values in a changing global context.
For a young university like our own, it is important to join this group of universities formally committed to the advancement of knowledge and defence of the progressive humanist tradition of university autonomy. It is a great milestone and we are justly proud of it. By signing this document, we become part of the university tradition started in the year 1158, when Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, promulgated the Constitutio Habita, determining that each school would become a society of members (students), led by a teacher (dominus), who would be paid by student fees. The Empire protected students travelling to study from interference by any political authority. It was a seminal moment in the history of European universities. Universities became places where research could develop freely, without hindrance from other powers. Long may it remain so.