In a global world we need global solutions

​The universities of tomorrow must collaborate across national borders to a far greater ex­tent than today, writes Per Michael Johansen (Rector of Aalborg University).
7th July 2021
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Revolution! A few years back, I read the book ‘Revolution’ by French President Emmanuel Macron. There is a need for a revolution, he says, if we are to prevent democratic society as we know it from decaying and disappearing. President Macron notes that, in a global world, there is a need for global solutions.

This also applies in the academic world. The universities of tomorrow must collaborate across national borders to a far greater extent than today. National borders that no longer exist in a digital world. This is also why Aalborg University sees value in being a member of CESAER.

Macron’s vision is to create a network of European Universities that can contribute to excellent research and education in their particular fields, and ultimately to general academic formation: research that can provide solutions to the major challenges the world is facing; education that can contribute to universal academic formation, which, in turn, binds us together as Europeans. I fully support this vision.

This is also why Aalborg University’s strategy ‘Knowledge for the World’ reflects that we are a modern university, acknowledging the agenda of a digital world. We are not isolated entities either as private individuals, researchers, or universities. Especially not if we want to address the major challenges contained in the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

This requires knowledge across the world, instead of isolation. Even the very best knowledge can become better through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Macron is right about this. I would like to add that we must collaborate not just across the world, but also across academic and scientific disciplines.

The natural sciences, health sciences, social sciences, engineering sciences and humanities must reach out to each other to find solutions and generate knowledge for the world. Interdisciplinarity can contribute to overall solutions and advance knowledge for the world.

Danish universities will experience a revolution in the coming years - if this is understood as fundamental change in structures and systems. In 1968, students shook the foundations of the universities by together, shoulder to shoulder, revolutionising the management of the universities. The impending - or rather ongoing - revolution will be - or is - of a completely different nature than what we have seen before.

The young generation, now a different and digitally native Generation Z, will be part of the revolution. They are a generation connected globally via social media, and quite willing to cross borders in connection with their studies.

The youth of tomorrow are not de­manding collective influence on the existing system, as the young students of the sixties did. The youth of tomorrow are seeking influence and creating a revolution individually by demanding options and then going where their demands and desires can be met.

The young generation are citizens of the world who travel the globe with the utmost ease, while digitalisation eliminates the limitations of geographical location - which completely erases national borders.

I hope that CEASAR will be able to address and facilitate this revolution.

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