All global challenges are transnational in character, said Professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London, as he opened today’s session on Driving Social Justice through Knowledge and Innovation post Covid-19.

"People are dying because we are not equitably sharing vaccines. We want to address unequal global partnerships and build a higher education system to address transnational challenges. We are going to have to rethink higher education and the institutional structure."

Regarding global research, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General, African Research Universities Alliance, Ghana, explained that the state of research in Africa is changing rapidly.  He said Africa has not been a major player in the global space of research providing solutions to development problems.  However, in the last five years, there has been significant growth in global citations from Africa. He added: “The pandemic has given us an opportunity and exposed the cracks in the African development landscape, higher education research and innovation. The landscape is changing, but not fast enough.”

Nona McDuff, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Students and Teaching, Solent University Southampton, UK, spoke of the need for collaboration and the role of diversity in HE.  “It makes sense to include academics, professional services and students to identify problems in higher education.  All aspects of our curriculum should be designed to produce curiosity and innovation. A curriculum needs to be relevant and inclusive - students need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. Diversity has inherent educational strength, it’s not to be viewed as a problem to be fixed. Diversity is a coming together of different perspectives that spark new ways of thinking and create important solutions.

Adam Habib asked the panel how you create inclusion in unequal world?

Andrew Thompson, UKRI International Champion for GCRF, UKRI, UK, responded that there are certain impediments to change. He said: “Our thinking is still quite siloed. Many global challenges are linked. For example, in Syria, food and water security and the conflict are entangled with each other. Plus there are questions about whose knowledge we actually value. If we look at the global refugee crisis, 80% of refugees exist in Global South, yet 80% of research on this is from the Global North.  Who gets to define the problem and how is it defined? Research funding needs to flow to the South to be truly equitable.”  

Nona McDuff, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Students and Teaching, Solent University Southampton, UK, spoke of the importance of recognizing the impact that collaboration and the right voices can have on identifying the right problems. She said: “We need to shine light on the consequences of unequal society. Our recovery from the pandemic will be impacted because we didn’t take care of marginalised communities. It’s about governments working together and taking problems seriously -it’s not a quick fix.