EMUNI Annual Conference 2018

Friday, 22 June 2018, Piran, Slovenia

The Future of Knowledge Institutions in the Mediterranean

Piran, Slovenia | 21 - 22 June 2018


In partnership with:


For centuries, universities have been considered the main societal hubs for knowledge and learning. For much of their history, the way knowledge is produced and disseminated has been relatively constant. In the recent decades, and even more in past years with the increasing pace of change, these existing tools are being seriously questioned. Nowadays, it seems assured that the sector of higher education is poised to undergo a fundamental transformation. At the same time, higher education institutions are resisting reforms in view of an uncertain future.

Primarily, technological progress and an ever-growing competition in the higher education sector are shaking up the status quo. Not only there are more universities, but also the higher education sector is being diversified. At least in part, the mission of a traditional university is being implemented by a variety of higher education institutions, non-profit distance learning providers, private free online course platforms, and training centres specializing in particular professions. These newcomers to the world of universities are expanding the traditional higher education marketplace. But not only that: when they push for more individually customised and modular degrees or address immediate market needs, they are challenging the existing concept of degrees. Finally, they are disrupting the delivery of knowledge with their use of more or less sophisticated technology. Overall, technology offers incredible opportunities in terms of availability of resources and reducing costs, but it also threatens to undermine some values, such as personal interactions, that have been engrained in traditional universities and indeed societies as we know them. All of this comes at a time when education is expected to prepare for a more prosperous future, as demonstrated for instance by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (goal number 4) and the targets contained in the EU’s Europe 2020 Strategy.

Another key pattern characterising the higher education sector globally is the increasing internationalization of higher education institutions. This entails on the one hand, an ever-closer cooperation between them (via mobility programmes, research collaborations, joint degree programmes etc.), but on the other hand also implies a major competition among them.

This conference examines the above outlined trends in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean region. It seeks to engage with the state of the art of the higher education sector in the Euro-Med, explore the interaction between the challenges that preoccupy the South (e.g. massification of higher education, low levels of student mobility flows) and those faced by the North (e.g. diminishing returns on higher education) and outline the ways for overcoming some of the common challenges, such as youth unemployment.

This conference will take place on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UfM and  the EMUNI university, which was established in the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean (2008) as one of priority areas of the UfM with the aim of creating a more integrated higher education area in the region. The conference is also in line with the conclusions of the following Ministerial conferences:

  • Ministerial Conference on Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research and Innovation (Valletta, 4 May 2017)
  • 5+5 Dialogue of Ministers of Western Mediterranean countries on Higher Education and Scientific Research and Innovation (Tunis, 30-31 March 2017)
  • First Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research (Cairo, 18 June 2007)
  • Ministerial Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean (Nicosia, 9 December 2016)
  • UfM Ministerial Conference on Employment and Labour (Dead Sea, 27 September 2016)
  • UfM Ministerial Conference on the Digital Economy (Brussels, 30 September 2014)


Opening panel.

Panel 1: “Teaching a digital generation.”

The potential and the role of technology is well evident. Yet educators and institutions struggle with effectively integrating digital teaching material in order to maximise the educational experience, let alone including new technological developments such as artificial intelligence or augmented reality. A primary issue to consider is the use of technology gadgets in the learning process and their impacts on the attention of students. The possibility of diverting much of what we do in person to online tasks requires rethinking of the teaching methods and interaction modes. Technology offers powerful tools for capacity building and knowledge transfers in the Euro-Mediterranean setting. Partnerships and networks could be exploited in order to enrich learning experiences North-South and South-South and integrating education, thus offering top-level knowledge in every corner of the Mediterranean.

  • What is the potential of distance learning and how should it be integrated into traditional university programmes? What are its limitations and how experiences differs across different disciplines?
  • In embedding technology into the learning process, how can we ensure equality of the benefits at the societal level? How to make sure that technology and innovations taking the stage outside university walls are brought to the classroom?
  • How can virtual education enhance learning opportunities for students looking to compete in a global marketplace and simultaneously preserve the valuable interaction between students?

Panel 2: “The structure of academic curricula: satisfying the demand for multi-disciplinary, life-long and employable outcomes.”

The nature of societal problems today (climate change, food insecurity, equality, sustainable development, poverty eradication and so on) invariably require inputs and interactions between a number of disciplines. The demand for inter-/ trans-disciplinarity links also to the employability of young graduates.

  • How can academic curricula be designed to respond to the needs posed by the current pressing and interlinked challenges?
  • How can educators be prepared to teach fundamentally revamped courses?
  • How can higher education cater to the needs of adult learners?
  • What efforts could connect education and employment more effectively, both by smoothing entry into the labour force and by enabling people to learn new skills throughout their careers? What are national differences in skill requirements that should be taken into account in order to increase meaningful employment after graduation?
  • What does the current and future interplay between research activities and teaching look like? As higher education institutions become more labour market-orientated, is the sector likely to become less research focused?

Panel 3: “Evaluating internationalization and charting its future.”

Internationalisation strategy has been a priority and one of the major trends in higher education over the past decades. Nevertheless, its impact need to be further assessed. Internationalisation can take many forms, from student and staff mobility, to co-taught courses and shared degree programmes, to collaborative research projects and publications, but also to MOOCs, which can represent a space, where ideas from different parts of the world are exchanged.

  • What is the status of these different forms of cross-border cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region? To what extent are they fulfilling the goals, for which they were designed?
  • How can internationalisation increase the quality of HEIs and therefore mutual trust?
  • How can international academic research and teaching be nudged towards collaboration and away from competition among HEIs?
  • How new actors such as University networks may maximise the positive impact of internationalisation in the Euro-Mediterranean region?

Concluding plenary panel: Higher Education in 2050 - Future Directions and Implications

This concluding panel will be predominantly foresight oriented. Possible future scenarios of higher education will be discussed and practical recommendation for strengthening cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean area will be suggested.

  • How soon will the outlined changes be taking place?
  • How will higher education be fundamentally different from the way it is today? How resilient are HEIs to any significant reforms?