7 August 2017

World café gives a voice to young researchers

The International Association of University Presidents (IAUP)’s general assembly took place in Vienna, Austria from 5-8 July 2017. This year’s conference did not only provide IAUP members with a platform to discuss challenges and changes faced by higher education across the globe but also introduced a second conference: the “Young Scientist Conference”. This conference invited scholars from around the world to discuss the topic of sustainability in regard to two special fields: global challenges and mobility of the future. To ensure the knowledge transfer from scientists to decision makers, the results of this conference were discussed during a world café with university presidents and the chief of the United Nations Academic Impact, Ramu Damodaran, during the closing event of the IAUP’s conference.

The results of the world café can be found below:


UN Hub „Capacity Building“

The keynote speaker of this track was Prof. Gil G. Noam, Harvard University. Three young scientists presented their work. The world café moderator was Laura Fuchs-Eisner from the Forum Alpbach Network, Clup Alpbach Upper Austria.

Content: Prof. Noam explained that there is an educational and mental health crisis that needs a holistic, strength-based, pro-active and data driven approach to education. The young scientists presented studies that emphasized the need for approaches of intercultural education to foster the positive development of immigrant children and intercultural friendships.


  • It is important to take teaching seriously.
  • Socio-emotional development is related to academic achievement.
  • Education should be based on real life issues to fit to the social context and to be meaningful for students.


  • Socio-emotional skills should be taken into account when measuring the impact of education.
  • Sound measurements of socio-emotional skills need to be developed and applied.
  • The future of education are student centered, strength-based approaches that include character building.
  • An internationally accepted standard-model for social responsibility of education needs to be developed


UN Hub „Education“

The keynote speakers of this track were Prof. Christiane Spiel, University of Vienna and Prof. Tina Malti, University of Toronto, Canada. Two young scientists presented their work. The world café moderator was Jelena Cerar from the Forum Alpbach Network, Clup Alpbach Upper Austria.

Content: Prof. Spiel explained that education is expected to foster social progress through four different but interrelated purposes: humanistic, civic, economic, and social equity. Prof. Malti emphasised that the investment in early education is crucial and that the most successful approaches target a variety of different social-emotional competences in children and youth simultaneously. A promising future strategy is to offer open online resources that are co-constructed by teachers and students, to hire more minority teachers to educate the increasingly diverse students, and to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, free-lancing and industry in (higher) education.


  • Industry focused education is only a small part of education.
  • Education needs to be re-oriented through innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Teachers and families are role models to improve education.


  • Both the mind and the heart need to be educated.
  • Industry should contribute to education (financially).
  • New, open and flexible tools of education need to be developed.


UN Hub „Sustainability“

Five young scientists presented their work. The world café moderator was Alexander Strobl from the Forum Alpbach Network, Clup Alpbach Upper Austria.

Content: Mr. Rendani Humphrey Khwidzhili explained that sustainability is a holistic approach to the world comprising five pillars: Economic, social, biological/productivity, risk management, and protection of natural ressources. Therefore, it is important to identify inter-connectivity and to develop a global model of sustainability. Sustainability means generativity – it is a holistic thinking about the well-being of future generations! Companies, politics and universities share the responsibility to act sustainably. Abass Gibrila demonstrated that it is important that decisions data driven.


  • The implications of putting sustainable thinking into practice are social and economic.
  • Putting sustainable thinking into practice need a holistic planning and the motivation of all parties.
  • Putting sustainable thinking into practice means creating better alternatives, not just fight the status-quo!
  • There is individual and collective responsibility!
  • Every single person is a change agent!
  • Putting sustainable thinking into practice might be expensive, therefore funding opportunities need to be created!
  • Regulations by legislation might also be important!


  • Putting sustainable thinking into practice is a necessity, not a luxury!
  • Sustainability offers a benefit for everyone!
  • Knowledge transfer and leveraging the university role and position in society is important!
  • There is potential big social impact: Social mobility, sustainable cities, sustainable communities, healthy life, and fair trade.
  • Training of professionals in all fields is important.
  • Education across the curriculum is necessary.


UN Hub „Inter-Cultural Dialogue “

The keynote speaker of this track was Prof. Martyn Barrett, University of Surrey, UK. The world café moderator was Jasmin Berghammer from the Forum Alpbach Network, Clup Alpbach Upper Austria. Content: Prof. Martyn Barrett explained that a major educational transformation is needed to put into practice “Comptetences for Democratic Culture” – a model that he developed for the Council of Europe. The model comprises 20 key competencies organized around values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and critical understanding. To participate in democratic culture it is necessary that countries around the world implement this model in their educational systems.


  • Cultural diversity also exists in seemingly homogeneous cultures.
  • In culturally diverse countries (like Lebanon) the implementation of the model is easier.
  • Study abroad programs are one method to acquire democratic and intercultural competence.
  • Internet can be used to acquire democratic and intercultural competence.
  • Group exchange programs, co-operative projects can be used to acquire democratic and intercultural competence.
  • The existing diversity in a given country, e.g. due to migration can be used to acquire democratic and intercultural competence.


  • Start early, ideally in pre-school!
  • Ministries of education worldwide should take action to implement the model!


UN Hub „Peace and Conflict Resolution “

The keynote speaker of this track was Prof. Wim Meeus, Utrecht University and Tilburg University, The Netherlands. The world café moderator was Katharina Hartl from the Forum Alpbach Network, Clup Alpbach Upper Austria.

Content: Prof. Meeus presented a six-step model to explain the emergence of (radicalized) identities. (1) Adolescence as social intervention, (2) Don’t trust anyone over 25 years, (3) No future believe, (4) Identity diffusion and moratorium, (5) Absence of commitments, and (6) Poor relationships in old networks and intense interaction with new group.


  • Give young people a decent place in society and a future to prevent radicalization.
  • Respect the cultures of refugees.
  • Education is the bridge to peace.
  • Give a future perspective to vulnerable young people.
  • Value things, also those you don’t know about!
  • Try to understand, have a dialogue, educate yourself more!


  • Create economic perspectives for young people!
  • Promote the idea of global citizenship and intercultural impacts through education!
  • Found institutes for peace and conflict resolution!
  • Share expertise and experiences!
  • Look on individual and societal level! Promote competences!
  • Make sure that immigrants and refugees are fully integrated into all public education institutions!
  • Promote social cohesion and inclusion as a broader approach to peace and conflict resolution!
  • Promote plurality of thoughts through education!