As the International Federation of Catholic Universities nears its 100th anniversary, the celebration of the many accomplishments of the past must also be an occasion to develop a transformational framework to prepare Catholic universities for the changing conditions of the future. IFCU is a value-based federation catering to members working under widely different conditions and facing enormous challenges. Our task is to provide answers to different constituencies, at a time when universities are facing a brave new world of opportunities and disruption, as their mission, their education model, community engagement strategies and funding structures are being transformed. We aim to support global collaboration, binding the voices of our members in a global engagement for robust research and values-driven academic training. This requires convoking disciplines and different stakeholders across regions and professional sectors to produce knowledge that will serve the cause of justice and human rights, support the sustainability of our common house and defend humanity. Universities are the focal point of a new economic model that is no
longer simply based on manufacturing and commodities but is driven and led by those who own intellectual capital. This clearly requires stronger links with stakeholders in the community, and they will increasingly tap into the resources available in universities more effectively as universities must be
flexible in catering to these changing demands. Our edge is that as Catholic universities, we will act to meet these demands by means of value-driven education.
We are conscious that our future is common or it will not be. The global entanglement of environmental, economical, political, cultural and social challenges force a new role upon universities. Technological disruption is changing the nature of work, modes of sociality and interaction, strategies of political engagement and also the very idea of the human. In this economy, the uses of the university (what is the university for?), the nature of its stakeholders (who is the university for?), the role of organization and strategies (how does the university produce knowledge?) and finally its relevance (how does the university create value(s)?), force upon Federations, such as IFCU, a wider and deeper responsibility.
As a Federation that is global in scope, IFCU’s task is unavoidably that of creating bridges across geographies and social realities, of inducing collaboration across disciplines and modes of knowledge production, fostering spaces of dialogue amongst its members (institutions, researchers, students) and between them and other societal actors. And to do so in the spirit of the Gospel, that enlightens our endeavors. As Pope Francis argues in Evangelii Gaudium: “Universities are outstanding environments for articulating and developing this evangelizing commitment in an interdisciplinary and integrated way.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 134). To “act in concrete terms”, as he challenges us to do, means to take up challenges where they are diagnosed. To act in concrete terms, then, also means to be ambitious in leveraging global outreach.
A Church that goes forth requires universities that go forth, that are on the move. This means precisely articulating the local with the global, leveraging our local presence with a wider international network of universities, bound together by their identity, and committed to jointly create impact in a world that increasingly needs institutions that create value informed by values.
IFCU may only be effectively global if it listens and hence advocates for its many and richly diverse internal voices. A voice of many voices, we pledge to foster spaces of sustainable solidarity to work together for a common future.