University Strengthens Global Collaboration Ties at U21 Meeting
The University President and two Vice Presidents recently attended the annual Universitas 21 meeting in Australia, where they discussed the role of higher education institutions in addressing climate change. The authorities also used this opportunity to strengthen the university’s collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS).
University President Ignacio Sánchez, Vice President for International Affairs Lilian Ferrer, and Vice President for Research Pedro Bouchon traveled to Brisbane, Australia to participate in the annual meeting of Universitas 21 (U21). This global network consists of 28 universities from around the world.
Held from April 26-28 at the St. Lucia campus of the University of Queensland (UQ), the meeting addressed the theme
“Partnering for Change: What Role do Universities have in Achieving a Net-Zero Future?”
It aimed to analyze the challenges faced by U21 partner institutions and their contributions to global efforts in combating climate change and transitioning to a sustainable future.
Participating in this network allows the university to “collaborate with prestigious institutions from around the world that are renowned for their research and representative of the diversity in higher education on a global scale,” explained President Sánchez.
Key areas of focus include:
- doctoral training,
- student development and exchange,
- university management policies,
- public policies applied in each country,
- and promoting key higher education issues.
“U21 serves as an excellent platform for joint work.”
The meeting served as a valuable opportunity for the exchange of opinions and experiences among the attending presidents and vice presidents, facilitating relevant contacts and fostering collaborative efforts.
Notable activities during this meeting included:
- the signing of a collaboration agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS) (see box at the end of the note);
- discussions with Korea University;
- coordination of a visit by the President of the University of Nottingham, England, Shearer West, who has just assumed the U21 presidency and will be participating in the UC Chile Education Summit next January;
- continued contacts with the University of Edinburgh.
Vice President for Research Pedro Bouchon was appointed as Chair-Elect of the Research Leaders Group of U21.
“In the field of research, collaboration and expanding the global perspective on societal challenges are key. By participating in this annual meeting, we are able to share good practices and experiences with authorities from other universities facing similar or dissimilar realities to that of Chile, and thus enrich our vision of education, research, and excellence,” he said.
Universitas 21 (U21) is comprised of leading universities from twenty countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, and Chile. UC Chile represents the only Chilean institution in this association.
With over 1,200,000 students, 250,000 faculty, and professionals, U21 aims to benefit participants through resource exchange, joint learning, and co-designing solutions to common challenges.
Lilian Ferrer, Vice President for International Affairs at UC Chile, plays an essential role in U21’s "Senior Leaders" group.
“Strengthening collaboration with international networks such as U21 is crucial for UC Chile. As we share common goals, we can work together to advance in educational innovation and research as well as student mobility and training."
The network's strategic focus revolves around:
- Educational innovation
- Student experience
UC Chile has actively contributed to these areas for the past thirteen years in steering groups and collaborative work groups. The university has stood out for its leadership, particularly through its organization of significant meetings, such as the 2015 General Assembly, and its regular participation in the Three Minute Thesis contest.
UC Chile’s Future Contributions
As the newly appointed director of the Research Leaders group, Pedro Bouchon presented the initiatives undertaken over the past two years.
These initiatives have focused on empowering teachers in the middle stage of development.
Bouchon expressed the desire to “open up perspectives of collaboration and future university management, providing tools for reflection and empowering individuals with competencies to reimagine themselves. The goal is to inspire and generate a collaborative mindset.”
He also announced meetings for early or mid-career researchers, with the first event scheduled to take place at the University of Zurich.
The Vice President emphasized that these meetings would offer opportunities for networking, collaboration, and dialogue on global perspectives.
“The most important thing is to stimulate deep conversations about critical, unresolved issues that require different perspectives or possibilities of collaboration. We need them to think about how to impact society with research carried out in universities, through knowledge transfer and innovation, but also through public policies.”
The Vice President also explained the various efforts being made by UC Chile to address climate change:
- Institutional level: The Office of Sustainability is working towards sustainability initiatives.
- Educational level: The Institute for Sustainable Development, SUS1000 course, and Institute of Applied Ethics have been established to promote sustainability education.
- Research level: UC Chile has different centers dedicated to research on climate change, along with the Regional Centers and Stations Network (RCER UC).
The First Day’s Packed Program
The first day included the meeting of the network's Executive Committee, the U21 Presidential Symposium, and several panel discussions.
A welcome address was given by the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland (UQ), Deborah Terry AO, and Andrew Flannery, Chief Operating Officer of UQ.
The keynote address was delivered by Associate Professor Simon Smart, UQ project leader for Net Zero Australia.
This was followed by two parallel panel discussions:
1. “Teaching and learning to support a new energy future,” chaired by Dr. Tony Heynen, Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering, UQ. The panelists included:
- Professor Karen Mossman, Vice President of Research, McMaster University
- Associate Professor Tao Ren, China-UK Low Carbon College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
- Professor Radenka Maric, Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Connecticut
2. “Harnessing interdisciplinary research and knowledge leadership to support global net-zero agendas,” chaired by Professor Ben Hankamer, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ. The panelists were:
- Professor Deanna D’Alessandro, Net Zero Initiative Director, University of Sydney
- Assistant Professor Aura Istrate, School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin
- Associate Professor Chong Cheng Tung, China-UK Low Carbon College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Three case studies were presented:
- “Mitigating inequality and the impact of climate change on developing nations,” by Professor Ammar Abdul Aziz, Director of the School of Agriculture and Health Sciences, UQ.
- “Leveraging the 2032 ‘climate positive’ Olympics to shape sustainable cities,” presented by Tim Kastelle, Director of External Engagement in the School of Business and the Andrew Liveris Academy for Innovation and Leadership, UQ.
- Professor Jaime Toney, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions at the University of Glasgow, presented the case “Universities as living laboratories for Net Zero.”
Another panel discussion focused on partnering with industry and government to drive a Net Zero policy agenda.
The panel was chaired by Dr. Vigya Sharma, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, UQ. The panelists were:
- Professor Karen Hussey, Deputy Director-General, Queensland Department of Environment and Science
- Daniel Gschwind, President of Trade and Investment Queensland
- Associate Professor Sebastian Vicuña, Director of the UC Global Change Center and professor in the School of Engineering.
- The closing words were given by Professor Aidan Byrne, Provost of the host university.
The second day of the U21 Network Annual Meeting took place at the Customs House, a renovated former customs building dating from 1886-1889, which is now a heritage site managed by the University of Queensland.
U21 Chairman Eng Chye Tan, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS), welcomed the participants.
Jenny Dixon, U21 provost, provided a review of the management over the last twelve months.
Dawn Freshwater, director of the work areas (or clusters), discussed the impact on different areas addressed by the network, including educational innovation, research linkages, and student experience. The proposed U21 Sustainability Declaration was also reviewed.
Specific workshops were held for delegates and clusters, as well as for presidents, to discuss and share ideas on various issues that universities face in the global context. These topics included:
- political divisions,
- increased natural disasters due to accelerated climate change,
- economic tensions,
- mental health,
- artificial intelligence challenges,
- and inclusion and diversity.
Introductory and welcoming remarks were given by UQ Vice Chancellor and President Deborah Terry.
The day concluded with the Annual General Meeting, where the minutes of the previous meeting held on May 6, 2022 were approved. It was announced that Shearer West, President of the University of Nottingham, would lead the network's presidency until May 2023.
A vote was also held on the recommendation to hold the 2024 Annual General Meeting at the University of Hong Kong and the 2025 meeting at UC Davis.
The day ended with a formal dinner and awards ceremony.
During the U21 meeting, UC Chile signed a collaboration agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS), which is considered the best university in Asia and a leading institution in these areas.
The Vice President for International Affairs Lilian Ferrer, mentioned that:
“We made the first contact last year during the U21 annual meeting, where we started exploring collaboration opportunities. They have visited us three times since then, and we are going to start with the first exchange of students from UC Chile to Singapore in July of this year, with a short innovation and entrepreneurship program.
NUS provided ten scholarships for our students, who were selected from a pool of 80 applicants.
Additionally, we are working on a program for NUS students to come to Universidad Católica and take courses here, as well as join start-ups associated with the UC Chile Innovation Center.”
President Ignacio Sánchez highlighted that NUS is very interested in establishing a relationship with Universidad Católica because they recognize our status in Latin America.
Vice President Ferrer will participate in the meeting of U21 senior leaders, which is scheduled to be held at NUS in October. She expressed her hope to bring an academic delegation from UC Chile to give life to the recently signed agreement, both in terms of teaching as well as research and collaboration.
The University of Queensland (UQ) is one of three Australian founding members of U21
It was established in 1909 by the Queensland Parliament, making it the oldest university in the state and one of the oldest in the country.
UQ is comprised of six faculties, eight world-renowned research institutes, and more than 100 research centers, which foster an interdisciplinary community of 1,500 scientists, social researchers and engineers.
It is ranked No. 50 in the QS World University Rankings.
UC Chile has maintained a formal collaboration relationship with UQ since 2004 through bilateral and cooperation agreements.