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Global Forum 2017: join us June 15-16 in Rome
June 15-16, 2017 LUMSA - Borgo Sant’Angelo, 13 – Rome, Italy LUMSA - Piazza delle Vaschette, 101 – Rome, Italy
Global Forum will be held at LUMSA University from 15 to 16 June 2017. The Conference is sponsored by the Council of Europe, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, the European Wergeland Centre and the host universities, LUMSA University and Australian Catholic University.
The past two or three years have seen major and often worrying developments in societies in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Our societies now face challenges that were largely unforeseen just four or five years ago. In Europe, this includes hosting a high number of refugees, mostly from the Middle East, whereas North America has seen debates on immigration as well as on foreign trade of unusual intensity and acrimony. An economic crisis has led to increased unemployment and a widespread feeling of uncertainty about future prospects.
Political – and more generally – societal debate has become increasingly polarized and both the ability and the will of political actors to seek a common ground and find solutions across political divides have diminished. At least in Europe, many countries have seen a rise in populism – often but not always right wing – characterized not only by attacks on elites and the establishment but also by a conviction that one’s own views or movement presents the genuine will of the people and that opposition is therefore at best disloyal, at worst treacherous.
A particular challenge is the use and importance of facts. Whereas a traditional saying would have it that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion but not his or her own facts, the past few years have seen challenges to the very notion that facts are neutral and can and must be established independently of political views and opinion. Expertise often seems to be considered as suspect and experts as a special interest group with an agenda of their own. Terms like “post- truth” and “alternative facts” indicate a significant and worrying shift in public attitudes to knowledge, understanding and critical thinking, in other words the very fundaments on which education and research are built.
In an age of political polarization, distrust of and disregard for knowledge, and questioning of the notion of neutral facts, what should the response of higher education be? How can universities pursue their mission of educating not only their own students but society more broadly? How can universities contribute to the development of societies when many citizens question the legitimacy and validity of academic teaching and research? How can higher education – institutions, faculty, and students – reset the agenda of societies that increasingly question the notions of participative and deliberative democracy, human rights and the dignity of all human beings, and open debate?