Driving Social Justice through Knowledge and Innovation post Covid-19

Wednesday 16 June | 12pm - 1pm BST


The format for this panel will be 'in conversation' with Professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London, who will also act as its facilitator. Joining Adam will be:

  • Prof. Andrew Thompson – UKRI International Champion for GCRF, UKRI, UK
  • Prof. Jan Palmowski – Secretary General, The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, Belgium
  • Prof. Ernest Aryeetey – Secretary General, African Research Universities Alliance, Ghana
  • Nona McDuff – Pro Vice-Chancellor, Students and Teaching, Solent University Southampton, UK 

Session highlights

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.” Nona McDuff, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Students and Teaching, Solent University Southampton, UK.

Equity means being part of the discussion right from the beginning. We want to be part of addressing all of these issues from the start, and not to just be invited to the table after a grant has been made.” Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General, African Research Universities Alliance, Ghana.

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.” Professor Adam Habib, Director of SOAS University of London.

Thinking on research funding is still quite siloed and yet many global challenges are linked, argued Andrew Thompson, UKRI International Champion for GCRF, UKRI, UK.  “For example, in Syria, food and water security and the conflict are entangled with each other.  There are questions about whose knowledge we actually value. If we look at the global refugee crisis, 80 per cent of refugees exist in Global South, yet 80 per cent 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.”

Session summary

We live in interesting, but dangerous times. Our world today is as unequal as it was before World War I and II. We are increasingly becoming as socially and politically polarized as we were then. 

This deepening of human divides imperils the human community. Climate change, public health, energy, inequality, and social and political polarization are transnational challenges that require us to cohere and act as one. Only if we build bridges of human solidarity will we survive as a species. This is the central lesson emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brings the principle of social justice to the heart of the global conversation.

How to do this is one of the defining questions of our era. And it is as relevant to tertiary education as it is to other parts of our human existence. We need universities and vocational colleges that train, research and innovate; companies that are entrepreneurial; incubators that can nurture new technologies; and venture capital networks that can sponsor these initiatives. But our global partnership model has not fundamentally changed since the 1980s.

Higher education and the business models that underpin it have to be fundamentally reimagined if they are to rise to our current challenges. Addressing the transnational challenges of our time - of which Covid-19 is only the most current manifestation - will provide a social and political foundation for us to survive as a global community.

This panel will advocate for a new methodology of global partnership, one that is more rooted in institutions than individuals.

See also