EMUNI Annual Conference 2023

New Models for Sustainable Universities: Adapting to Change

on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary

of EMUNI University

Kidričevo nabrežje 2

Piran, Slovenia 🇸🇮

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8 - 9 June 2023

About the Conference

The Conference will bring together prominent speakers and guests to discuss new models for sustainable universities and how they can adapt to change. The conference will provide a platform for exchange of ideas and best practices to help universities stay relevant and effective in the face of current and future challenges. It is an excellent opportunity for professionals, educators, and researchers to network and learn from each other.

New Models for Sustainable Universities: Adapting to Change

Concept Note

Throughout history, universities have played a foundational role in the transformation of human societies, economies, and cultures. Universities confer an identify upon students, create a space for the pursuit of intellectual curiosity and exploration, and provide for the formation of academic and professional relationships. As such, they play a crucial role in the incubation of new ideas, economic prototypes, and informed policy. While the importance of the role of the university remains unchanged, its ability to fulfil its longstanding role in modern societies is—today more than ever before—subject to its adaptability.

Higher education underwent major changes in the 19th and 20th centuries to meet the demands of the nations’ analogous industrial economic development. Today higher education is under pressure to undergo another transformation to meet the demands of the digitised global information economy. Due to rapid technological advances, much of the knowledge and skills we teach and learn is constantly changing. Some of the most intriguing future job opportunities don’t even exist yet, in fields we can’t even imagine. One of the main concerns about universities is a perceived delay in their ability to adjust and adapt to an ever-changing world. Many experts are of the opinion that there is a bottleneck in the education pipeline.

Namely, universities are facing unprecedented pressures for change, driven by technological, societal, and cultural forces. The so-called ‘forth industrial revolution’ (Industry 4.0), including the rise of AI, has given way to a plethora of debates concerning the innovativeness and appropriateness of universities pedagogic techniques. This has called into question the relevance of university degrees in an increasingly dynamic job market monopolised by demand for technological aptitude. These pressures reached a zenith during the Covid-19 Pandemic, where alternatives to the university have demonstrated their rising relevance. While studies remain nascent, post-pandemic university enrolment is declining rapidly in favour of enrolment in online courses and self-learning, signalling a preference towards alternatives.

Social pressures are present in the form of changing youth cultures and widening generational gaps, calling to the fore the importance of the active involvement of youth in the formation of curricula, teaching methods, and the overall government of their own education.

The call for reform is becoming increasingly heard and can only be answered with a global (and coordinated) effort to craft a multitude of new models for Sustainable Universities. In fact, restructuring higher education governance has been one of the priorities identified through the Public Consultation recently launched by the Union for the Mediterranean. Institutional support to ensure more effective management and reinforcing the universities’ role in an increasingly challenging national, regional, and international environment, is undeniably crucial. We do hope that this call for a collective action to breed new models for Sustainable Universities will be heard by the ministries and national authorities of the 43 UfM Member States who will be gathering along the Ministerial Conference in Fez, Morocco, in November 2023.

While the pathway forward is heavily debated, ‘innovation’ is commonly seen as an indispensable characteristic of ‘the Sustainable University’. We have all heard (and perhaps even argued) that 1950s style university curricula are not befitting the 21st century or that the skills taught within the classroom are ill-suited for the demands of the job market. Indeed, innovative content and methods are important, but innovative pedagogy is only one aspect of the sustainable university model.

There is great need for innovation in the structure of the university, with the goal being to craft institutions capable of continuous adaption to outside forces. Sustainable Universities will arise from an evolution (rather than a revolution) in the way they think about teaching, which involves changes from the institution itself down to the degree. This may include governance structure, business models, personnel, funding/financing schemes, pedagogical methodologies, examination, degree awards, and linkages with society and business.

It is true that all institutions—academic and otherwise—are constantly in a state of flux and evolution; however, when the very rate of change of our socioeconomic reality is rapidly rising, so do the demands on these institutions to reflect reality.

Along 3 panel discussions, a diverse group of experts and stakeholders from academia, policy makers, business sector and the society, will discuss and attempt to provide answers to a variety of questions.

  • How to attain the goal of continuous adjustment and adaptation of universities to the technological, societal and cultural changes?
  • What must the university do to continue its formidable role in socioeconomic transformation? What reforms should be introduced? And how?
  • What measures will ensure the right sequencing and gradualism of these reforms?
  • What of the role of technological interaction?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, how can we ensure that procedural innovation remains an active tenant of the Sustainable University?


With the support of: