Publications & Thought Leadership

November 2021

The Role of Canadian Universities in Society

Posted in Leadership Strategies

The Role of Canadian Universities in Society is a manifesto on the role of the post-secondary sector to accelerate progress towards a sustainable future signed on by nearly 30 university presidents, representing about one-third of all universities across Canada.

The Role of Canadian Universities in Society situates the discussion in the context of the intersecting crises of the pandemic, soaring inequality and the climate emergency which are driving Universities to raise big questions about their role as agents of change. Universities are reconfiguring their missions and structures to address societal threats with greater intention, focus and impact. University presidents are championing efforts to unlock the potential of their institutions and sector to support enhanced prosperity within nature’s limits.

The ideas in this paper on The Role of Canadian Universities in Society sheds light on opportunities for universities to play a bold and visionary role. This is the story from the perspective of presidents being called personally and professionally to define and pursue a North Star for the institutions and communities they serve.

The Role of Canadian Universities in Society lists fourteen change agent roles universities are playing in building a better society. Universities:

  • Tackle global societal threats
  • Co-create community solutions
  • Develop future leaders
  • Educate existing leaders
  • Raise public awareness
  • Leverage research for social change 
  • Harness administrative operations
  • Become social innovation platforms 
  • De-centre Western knowledge
  • Dismantle systemic racism
  • Lead multi-stakeholder collaborations
  • Harness convening power
  • Join forces with each other
  • Engage business sector

The Role of Canadian Universities in Society is an articulation of the collective vision of University Presidents on the role of universities as change agents to help address societal challenges and build a better world.

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