Call for consultation: New Magna Charta Universitatum


A new Magna Charta Universitatum: MCU 2020

The Magna Charta Universitatum was first signed by 388 rectors in Bologna in September 1988. It defined fundamental principles and means of achieving them so that universities could play an effective role in society.

Signing the Magna Charta committed universities to valuing autonomy and academic freedom and operating in accordance with them.

The document was drafted in 1988 and has served universities well for over 30 years, despite its references to a particular geographical region and period of time. The number of universities that have signed the Magna Charta Universitatum has risen to 889.

Much has changed over that 30-year period, both in the contexts in which universities operate and within universities themselves. Universities now operate more internationally, have to respond more quickly to larger numbers and more diverse learners and research requirements, use advanced technology, different modes of delivery and are challenged to be more sustainable and more equitable as well as serving the diverse needs of a wider range of local, national and international stakeholders.

Universities are increasingly having to review their values; how they are given effect and how they contribute to the maintenance and development of their mission and reputation.

These changes and the Magna Charta Observatory’s expanding global outreach have led the MCO’s council to conclude that the time is right for a new Magna Charta Universitatum.

The task of preparing the draft ‘MCU 2020’ was given to an internationally diverse group of experienced higher education professionals including a student leader. Members of the group have reviewed the current and emerging situations in their part of the world, examined declarations from different countries which were written in different circumstances for different purposes and identified priorities for the new Magna Charta Universitatum.

The new draft Magna Charta Universitatum removes nothing from the original fundamental values to which universities signed up. It strives to be responsive to and resonate with contemporary challenges and concerns. Its tone recognises that the pursuit of the fundamental values has worth along with their actual attainment, which, in practice, is a constant quest. It recognises the more global nature of what universities do and the wider range of local responsibilities which they have.

Feedback on this draft is sought from current signatories, other universities, national and international higher education associations, student and staff bodies. Regional workshops across the globe will also evaluate the draft and its relevance, efficacy and robustness in their particular context.

Action invited

You are invited to review the draft document and submit comments.

Specifically, we would value your responses to the following questions:

–          1. Is the link to the existing MCU clear and strong enough?

–          2. Do the changes described in paragraph 6 align with your experience? If not, what has been omitted or inappropriately included?

–          3. Does the draft MCU 2020 accurately reflect the challenges which your university faces or anticipates?

–          4. Do the proposed values align well with the values and mission of your university?

–          5. (For current signatories only) In your view, would your university be willing to sign (actually or virtually) the new MCU?

–          6. Please add any additional comments that the review group should consider.

The draft text of MCU 2020 can be found at where the above questions can be answered. Or responses to the questions can be emailed to

This consultation period closes on 2 August 2019.

MCU 2020 will be the subject of workshops at the MCO’s Anniversary Conference at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, details of which can be found at and at other regional and international events, details of which can be found at

It is proposed that MCU 2020 will be launched at the MCO’s Anniversary in Bologna on 17 September 2020.

Our aim is that MCU 2020 will enable universities across the globe to serve society reliably in a way that is modern, relevant and sustainable, soundly based on principles and sustainable while nurturing society’s trust in universities.

We thank you for contributing to this endeavour.

David J Lock

Secretary General