The World Universities Forum, 2008, successfully ended last week in Davos. The Forum brought together participants from 42 nations, University administrators, teachers and researchers to discuss the prospects of the academy and to exemplify or imagine ways in which the University can take a leading and constructive role in the transformations of our times.

Today, universities face significant common challenges to their traditional position in society—contemporary knowledge systems are becoming more distributed and learning ubiquitous. Where does this leave the University – as an historically specialised and privileged place for certain kinds of knowledge and learning, as an institutionally bounded space? What do these changes mean for the mission and structures of the renewed University? What are emerging as principal areas of the academic interest?

Mary Kalantzis of U of I offered a short account of some of the conference presentations and discussions trying to address those issues For example: the problematic mix of factors that are shifting education from a public good to a commercial transaction (U of I Professor Fazal Rizvi and Provost Katehi) – managing the unique, ‘hyper-expectation’ of public universities resulting in unfunded ‘mission creep’ (University of Michigan, Provost Teresa Sullivan)- reframing the mission of the university in the 21st century on the quality of life and sustainable development so that teaching, research and service enables people to meet today’s needs without compromising the capacity of others in the future to meet their needs (Vice Chancellor of University Sains Malaysia, Professor Dato’ Abdul Razak Dzulkifli) – considering the ‘coming together’ of education systems to facilitate both global understanding and to enable mutual recognition and mobility (Prof. Pavel Zgaga, one of the architects of the European ‘Bologna Process’).

The forum was organized by Common Ground publishers and is linked to the publication of a peer review Journal, the Journal of the World Universities Forum, that will publish the written papers of the presenters and other participants.