Fourth Arab-Euro Conference on Higher Education (AECHE 4): Developing a common regional agenda for collaborative research among universities so as to better address shared challenges.
Rabat, 26 April 2017. A delegation from the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Secretariat, headed by diplomatic adviser and spokesperson Sergi Farré, spent two days at the 4th Arab-Euro Conference on Higher Education (AECHE4), entitled “Research for sustainable societies – the role of universities”, this year hosted by the Mohammed V University in Rabat, under patronage of Her Majesty the King Mohammed VI.
As in previous editions, the Conference, the Secretariat for which is provided by the University of Barcelona, brought together the Association of Arab Universities (AArU), the European University Association (EUA) and their respective members. It is an extended forum for promoting dialogue and cooperation between universities in European, Mediterranean and Gulf countries.
By highlighting the importance of collaborative research and innovation efforts among higher education institutions so as to better deal with the challenges facing society, the Conference provided the opportunity for an exchange of views between policymakers, university chancellors, professors, researchers and representatives of university networks, with whom the UfM Secretariat works closely, such as UNIMED, UNICA and EMUNI, as well as experts and stakeholders from civil society.
Among those participating were Khalid Samadi, Moroccan Secretary of State responsible for higher education and scientific research; Saaïd Amzazi, Chancellor of the Mohammed V University; Christina Russo, Director for International Cooperation at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation; Paul J. Pace, representative of the Minister of Education and Employment of Malta (Presidency of the Council of the European Union); Professor Sultan Abu Orabi, Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities; and Michael Gaebel, Director of the Higher Education Policy Unit at the European University Association.
The participants highlighted the advantages for society of university research cooperation and demonstrated the benefits of taking a regional and interdisciplinary approach to addressing global challenges linked to the environment, climate change, economic development, demographic imbalance, conflicts, migration and the refugee crisis. They also presented a diagram of initiatives and existing networks and their research collaboration synergies.
These lines of action correspond to the actions of the General Secretariat of the UfM, whose role is to act as a platform for higher education and student mobility in the Mediterranean region, to support regional centers of higher education, to improve the quality of vocational training and to facilitate regional dialogue in the scientific research community in the region.
Partenaires of AECHE 4 have approved a joint declaration. The next edition of AECHE will be hosted by Murcia University (Spain) during June 2018.
The conference was organised by the stakeholders to the joint AECHE initiative comprising the Association of Arab Universities (AArU), the European University Association (EUA) and the University of Barcelona (UB). Launched in 2013, this platform for dialogue and regional cooperation between universities in the Arab-European region is led by a steering committee formed of the same members in addition to the Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED), the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA) and the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Membership of the steering committee also extends to the institutions and organisations involved in current projects, such as the Technical University of Berlin.