Leading research university networks and United Nations seek closer collaboration


Several of the world’s leading research-intensive university associations have gathered in Geneva to discuss global developments in research, education and innovation. Together with representatives of the United Nations (UN), they seek ways to bridge the gap between science and policy, and to further strengthen the engagement of academia in solving global societal challenges. 

Upon the invitation of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) - and hosted by Prof. Yves Flückiger, Rector of the University of Geneva - eight major research university groups, together with the LERU Vice-Rectors Research, have gathered for a unique three-day meeting filled with thought-provoking discussions. 

From 10 till 12 December 2018, the Association of American Universities, the Association of East Asian Research Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, the U15 Canada, the U15 Germany, the RU11 Japan and the Russell Group UK, collectively representing 174 of the world’s leading research universities, reflected upon the many common challenges which research universities around the globe are facing today. 

A highlight of the meeting was the networks’ meeting with the UN, aimed at forging better science-policy links between research universities and the UN, hosted by Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva. Convinced of the important role that global research-intensive universities play in connecting science and policy, LERU sought and recently obtained Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, thanks to which LERU can now provide expert analysis and raise public awareness on relevant issues related to research, education and innovation at the global level.

This meeting is also part of the University of Geneva’s recently founded Science-Policy Interface (SPI). SPI’s aim is to promote interactions between the world of academia and the world of the United Nations. It tries to make the skills and expertise of the research community more accessible to actors at policy level. 

LERU Secretary-General, Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, said: “Our world is changing and developing extremely fast. Boundaries fade away and most societal challenges have a global dimension. Research universities need to be at the forefront of tackling these developments. We need to unite more strongly and come up with a comprehensive approach if we want to improve the daily life of citizens around the world. If we are to succeed, then connecting universities and policy actors is absolutely vital.” 

The global networks meeting welcomed inspiring presentations by several speakers, including by Prof. Bert van der Zwaan, Former Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University and former LERU Chair, about the future of modern higher education; by Robert-Jan Smits, special envoy for open access of the European Commission, about Plan S, the initiative for open-access science publishing; by Dr. Paul Ayris of University College London, about the LERU Open Science Roadmap; and by Prof. Jean-Claude Burgelman of the European Commission, about the European Open Science Cloud.

Gcriu Participants Geneva
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Michael Moller
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Pictures by Veerle van Kerckhove, LERU Office


  • Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General: +32 499 80 89 99 / kurt.deketelaere@leru.org  
  • For media enquiries please contact Bart Valkenaers, Policy Officer: +32 498 08 43 49 / bart.valkenaers@leru.org