Magna Charta Observatory seeks secretary-general to lead mission

Pan-European body based in Bologna works to promote the academy’s humanist vocation. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

April 3, 2014

Source: Wikipedia

Guiding values: the Bologna post holder will promote universities’ vocation

On 18 September 1988, the 900th anniversary of the creation of the world’s first university – the University of Bologna – was marked by the launch of the Magna Charta Universitatum.

Initially signed by 388 European university leaders looking ahead to “a changing and increasingly international society”, the charter was designed to set out “the fundamental principles, which must, now and always, support the vocation of universities”.

Along with academic freedom, institutional autonomy and the inseparability of teaching and research went a commitment to mutual influence between cultures, although universities were also regarded as “trustee[s] of the European humanist tradition”.

Out of this original document came the Magna Charta Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights, which was set up in 2000 to promote such values, and to respond when they were under threat in places such as Croatia and Georgia. The role of the new secretary-general will be to promote the Observatory’s mission and to act as its figurehead.

The total number of signatories has now doubled to about 800. Twice in every five-year period, a one-day conference is held in Bologna, and often focuses on how the original guiding values remain relevant in a world transformed culturally, politically and technologically.

This event is accompanied by a half-day ceremony in which new signatories are welcomed into the fold. In other years the annual September conference is held elsewhere, with Uppsala in Sweden chosen for 2014.

The incoming secretary-general will be largely responsible for organising the conference, explained a representative for the Observatory, “and then for collecting and editing material for the prestigious publication of its proceedings, sent out to around 2,000 leading figures in higher education.

“He or she will be expected to build and maintain extensive contacts and a pool of experts, so that the Observatory can offer its opinion in cases where its principles are endangered. It has also been asked, on occasion, to help draft new legislation on higher education.”

The Observatory is largely funded by the Italian Ministry of Higher Education through the University of Bologna, and often suffers year-on-year cuts. The representative emphasised that the secretary-general will need to devote considerable effort to fundraising.

Since the post is envisaged as half-time, it does not require residence in its Bologna headquarters. It has previously been carried out by an Estonian, a German, a Swiss, a Turk and a US citizen based in Paris, all of whom were willing and able to spend a few days a month (or even less) in Italy, and to take part in meetings around the world.

Although the advertisement naturally requires someone “well acquainted with universities and their international networks”, earlier incumbents have ranged from a PhD student to a professor. Experienced administrators or consultants might be equally appropriate.

Pole positions: other leadership roles

Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield Hallam University’s business school is looking to hire an assistant dean of research.
Closing date for applications: 22 April 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of London
The University of London’s School of Advanced Study has begun the search for a new director to lead its Institute of English Studies.
Closing date for applications: 13 April 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of Sussex
The University of Sussex is now welcoming applications from those who wish to be considered for the post of head of the School of Psychology.
Closing date for applications: 2 May 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role


Maria Goddard, director of the University of York’s Centre for Health Economics and professor of health economics, has been appointed to the board of the Health and Social Care Information Centre, a body responsible for health and social care data collection, analysis and dissemination in England.

Bill McCarthy has been made deputy vice-chancellor (operations) at the University of Bradford. He will take up the role on 1 July and joins from NHS England where he is currently national director of policy.

Patricia Livsey, currently director of nursing at Liverpool John Moores University, is to join Plymouth University as executive dean of its new Faculty of Health and Human Sciences.

A University of Dundee academic has received a prestigious award for her research. Helen Walden, a principal investigator at Dundee’s MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, has received the Colworth Medal, the most distinguished UK award that biochemical researchers in the early stages of their independent research can receive.

York St John University has promoted three lecturers to professorships: Matthew Reason of the Faculty of Arts, Steve Watson of the Business School and Jacqueline Akhurst of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Four other staff members have been awarded the title of associate professor: Steven Gibson of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Mandy Asghar of the department of learning and teaching development, Claire Hind of the Faculty of Arts and Nick Rowe of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences/Faculty of Arts.

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