Magna Charta Universitatum was first signed in Bologna, Italy, on September 18, 1988 by 430 university rectors from all over the world. The date marked the 900th anniversary of the founding of the University of Bologna.
Now, 30 years later, even more universities have been added to the list of signatories, among them the University of Stavanger, represented by Marit Boyesen and Dag Husebø. The ceremony took place last week in Salamanca, Spain, marking the 800th anniversary of the University of Salamanca.
Since 1988, Magna Charta Universitatum has been signed by 889 universities from 88 countries. The University of Oslo, the University of Bergen and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) are among the Norwegian signatories – and as of last week the University of Stavanger.
Protecting academic freedom
The UiS applied to sign the Magna Charta in June this year and was accepted in August. As part of the application, the UiS had to submit statements of support from three other universities.
Before departing for Salamanca, Marit Boyesen stressed the importance of UiS joining universities around the world in terms of celebrating and protecting institutional autonomy, democracy and freedom of speech.
«We are a young university, but this is not about age. This is about universal values that we as a young university have a duty to protect and preserve. As an academic institution, we need to be firmly anchored in knowledge and history», says Boyesen.
«I think it is important that we become part of this community because it supports fundamental university values, such as ensuring free and independent research, democracy and freedom of speech. Even though we strive to maintain good relations with the innovation community and the business sector, our foundation rests in long-established principles, particularly institutional autonomy and academic freedom», Boyesen continues, adding that education and knowledge must be made available to people from all parts of society.
The association that handles and oversees Magna Charta Universitatum is independent from political organisations and interest groups. And signatory universities, through their rectors and others who act on behalf of the university, are committed to complying with the principles of the Magna Charta Universitatum.
Evaluation by peers
Magna Charta Universitatum is closely associated with one of the most important documents in history, the Magna Carta Libertatum, commonly called Magna Carta, dating back to the Middle Ages. The document stated the fundamental principle that everyone is entitled to a trial by a jury of his or her peers, and this is the reason why we find both a jury and a judge in the courtrooms in most countries today.
«Universities and science follow the same judgment by peers principle set forth in Magna Carta. Scientific work must be reviewed by fellow scholars, not the government or king», says Stig Atle Selmer-Andressen, Senior Adviser at the Department of Academic Affairs at UiS and involved in the university’s application process for the Magna Charta Universitatum.
Text: Karen Anne Okstad