Presentation of the 5th GUNi Report in Barcelona


The presentation of the report Higher Education in the World 5 Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education contributing to social change took place on October 14 in Barcelona. The event, held in the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, where GUNi’s headquarters are located, gathered around 150 participants among university presidents and vice-presidents, politicians, academics, professionals of higher education, policy-makers and representatives of civil society.

The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias; the Director-General for Universities of the Catalan Autonomous Government, Lluís Jofre; the Secretary-General for Universities of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Federico Morán; and the CEO of Universia, Jaume Pagès, took part of the opening session chaired by the President of GUNi, Prof. Roberto Fernández.

GUNi was pleased to welcome again to Barcelona Prof. Budd Hall and Prof. Rajesh Tandon, guest editors of the 5th GUNi Report. It was also a pleasure to welcome as speakers Paul Manners, from the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement – NCCPE (UK), Norbert Steinhaus, Coordinator and international contact of Living Knowledge at the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization (Germany), Maria Marquès, Senior Lecturer at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain); and Miquel Martínez, Professor of Theory of Education, and member of research group Values, Education and Moral Development (GREM) at the University of Barcelona (Spain).

After the welcome address, Ms. Cristina Escrigas, GUNi Project Development Advisor, presented the highlights of the 5th GUNi Report and introduced the participants of the round table, Prof. Budd Hall, Prof Rajesh Tandoon and Mr. Paul Manners, who discussed on the main ideas addressed in this publication concerning the commitment of higher education institutions to engage with society. After that, Prof. Maria Marquès and Prof. Norbert Steinhauss shared experiences in a session chaired by Miquel Martínez.

Since its publication, GUNi has distributed the report to 800 institutions around the world and it is supporting 38 presentations scheduled during 2014 in 25 countries, which include the regional presentation in Arab States held in Jordan, the regional presentation in Asia and the Pacific, held in South Korea, and presentations in India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Burundi, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Denmark, UK, USA and Canada, among others (see the full list here).

This 5th GUNi Report focuses on Knowledge, Engagement & Higher Education. The role of knowledge is key in contemporary societies, but how do institutions really engage with the deep and emerging needs of society? How can we identify critical questions on this issue? In exploring this contemporary issue, the Report describes how community-university engagement (CUE) is key for the contribution of knowledge to social transformation by offering new visions for the future and ways for concrete action.

The report highlights the need to put knowledge at the service of social innovation. It focuses on the need to prioritize the generation and dissemination of transformative knowledge that has the ability to change the understanding of the reality in a deep sense and to articulate new ways of relating with it accordingly.

The 5th report analyses the role of higher education institutions as active agents to help solve major global issues. This is what is required, according to the challenges that our societies face nowadays and with the aim of contributing to building possible solutions to overcome them. Facilitating socially engaged universities is paramount to develop prospering communities at all levels, from a local to a global scale.

Thus, the 5th GUNi Report looks at our changing understanding about who the agents of knowledge creation are, and how the creation, distribution and use of knowledge are linked to our aspirations for a better world. It offers elements of a vision for a renewed and socially responsible relationship between higher education, knowledge, and society.

In this sense, the Report calls upon policy-makers, leaders and practitioners of HEIs around the world to rethink the social responsibilities of higher education and to become a part of a hub of societal innovation. The concept and practice of engagement goes beyond the third mission. Engagement is a way to be University, which does things in a different way arranging new kinds of partnership, with a range of different societal actors to fulfil different outputs linked to deep-rooted societal needs.

The academic communities worldwide are key players in the model of civilization. The responsibility of HE systems consists of providing people with the baggage of the past, preparing them to live in the present and being critical, open-minded and creative to build a better world for future generations. Therefore, it is time for a general reconsideration of the purposes and the role of education at all levels. It is time to go beyond educating professionals to educating citizens, in ethical awareness and civic commitment.

Community-University Engagement is key in breaking the conformity of thought by renewing the world of ideas and transforming the paradigms and beliefs that underpin our current systems. CUE is central for the creation of a new citizenship. Because of this, it is not enough to just become engaged. It is necessary to analyse for what purposes, with whom and how engagement takes place, to ensure a positive social process of transformation.

Higher Education has to find the balance between transmitting the paradigms that have built contemporary societies as they are and encourage the creation and dissemination of emerging knowledge, at the frontiers of accepted knowledge, capable of questioning and overcoming these same paradigms where they are no longer efficient in terms of sustainable human development.

Higher Education is responsible for bridging the gap between present and future and to do so with new ethical approaches, in the light of contemporary challenges for collective coexistence.

Discernment in prioritizing and defining new ways of the creation, dissemination and use of knowledge to improve the collective wellbeing is one of the challenges for academic communities which, although they must conduct their activities freely and autonomously, they cannot elude their commitment and social responsibility.

In exploring CUE, the Report attempts to illustrate how this relevant issue is being developed within the different world regions. It shows peculiarities among countries and provides a current territorial and thematic map about how HEIs are engaging with society. It analyses how we are managing knowledge in society, the different ways in which it is created, how it is differently valued, its ethical implications, the different understanding between what is knowledge and what it is not, the channels of knowledge distribution and consumerism, and its social uses for addressing the current emerging issues and pressing problems.

The report proposes to integrate CUE in all institutional, teaching and research activities as a way of thinking and acting. This is the new approach for a true social commitment by HE and it must be the social responsibility concept of our days. Finally, this publication aims to propose steps to enhance the contribution of CUE, offering a toolbox for higher education practitioners through examples of good practices, statements and political frameworks, structures at different levels and relevant experiences to move forward.

New engaged HEIs will require a metamorphosis with unavoidable transformations in their structures, culture, leadership and academic decision-making patterns, governance policy, management systems, research, teaching and learning, and engagement. The GUNi invites the global academic family to actively participate in the transformation of HE, with the conviction that it is by taking action that we can introduce real changes in education and enlarge the transformative awareness of our societies. We encourage analysing how to build transformative knowledge to drive social change.

See further information on the 5th GUNi report.



  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry of Business and Employment. Department of Research and Universities
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry for Foreign Action and Open Government