Between February 15 and 19 this year, more than 1,400 delegates from 63 countries attended the 10th edition of the University Congress 2016 in Havana, the theme of which was “Innovative Universities for Sustainable Development”.
The conference facilitated frank and informed exchanges between academics and students, consultations about projects, networks and new commitments to examine the most pressing problems facing higher education.
Analysis sessions and debates took place in 19 workshops and scenarios such as round-table talks, conferences and panels, in which highly qualified experts participated.
The perception of universities as institutions with a high degree of social responsibility and the capacity to contribute to humanity’s progress and well being was constant throughout the Ministry of Education organized event In this regard, Rodolfo Alarcón, head of the Cuban branch, stressed in a number of his interventions that centers of higher education are fundamental to production, diffusion, use and knowledge processes.
Alarcón told The Havana Reporter that the event was taking place at a time when the world needed universities to unleash their potential to transform, as a contribution to the preservation of life on earth.
This was a view that arose frequently during the Congress in relation to ties between higher education and the United Nations Developmemt Agenda for 2030, approved in Paris last year.
The Sustainable Development Objectives (SDO) of that program contemplate the importance of the improvement of Universities, institutions vital for global development and growth. David Atchoarena, director of UNESCO‘s Planning and Development Division, reaffirmed in this regard, the body’s commitment to higher education by outlying strategy for the promotion and consolidation of a university sector that integrates measures that favor better cooperation and technological exchanges.
The importance of this level of education to compliance with the 2030 Agenda was reflected in the presence of 11 Ministers of Higher Education and more than 150 rectors from universities of different countries.
THE FORMATION OF VALUES
The prestigious writer and theologist Frei Betto enriched the debate with his assurances that to attain harmonious development, compatible with social and environmental need, it is not enough to perfect the capacity for innovation of universities only.
This also demands that academic formation be guided by humanitarian principles that embody values such as solidarity, cooperation, the fight for justice and the protection of the environment.
Argentinian sociologist and political scientist Atilio Boron, in keeping with the Dominican friar, urged for work to reconvert universities into critical centers that -- in the name of justice, democracy, sustainable development and pluralism -- defy neoliberal uniporality.
According to Boron, they are no longer creative centers of progress, but devices for technological innovation that only benefit big transnational corporations.
He emphasized that universities held the potential to retake their historic role as critical interlocutor of the established order, in the interests of sustainable development, a relationship that will be more closely scrutinized during the next edition of the event in 2018, the centenary year of the University Reform of Cordoba, Argentina.Share on FB Share on TT