Università di Bologna GCED Chair in Higher Education strengthens vital link between research and action

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent conflicts worldwide that are driving refugees and asylum seekers from their homes has further demonstrated the need for a global dimension in education and the limits of nationalistic responses to global challenges. Across the world, GCED has gained momentum in policy agenda, school practice and academic debate, and many national governments are introducing educational polices to integrate GCED in school curricula.

At its heart, global citizenship education (GCED) focuses on the interdependence and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global. Located at that nexus, UNESCO’s network of Chairs on GCED has a distinct purpose linking research to action, putting learners at the centre, and tangibly affecting people’s lives and communities.

In August 2021, UNESCO is pleased to announce the new Chair on Global Citizenship Education in Higher Education, Professor Massimiliano Tarozzi, from the Department of Life Quality Studies at the Università di Bologna, Italy. Dr. Tarozzi brings a rigorous research agenda and relationships from across Europe and North America to support GCED in tertiary education institutions, which have received relatively little attention in GCED research and policy.

“Establishing this Chair in Higher Education emphasizes the importance of research and the engagement of universities in the community as key levers for social change and fostering global citizenship,” Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, said.

“UNESCO strongly support the role of academia and research institutions in global efforts to find viable solutions to our most pressing challenges, building bridges between research, policy and society.”

Università di Bologna provides a case in point of putting GCED principles into action, for example by facilitating refugees and asylum seekers access and integration into higher education, along with recognition of their existing academic credentials. The Unibo for Refugees initiative enables asylum seekers to integrate into student life and ladder into academic programmes by accessing courses at the university free of charge.

In related efforts, the UNI-CO-RE project (University Corridors for Refugees) partners with Mekele University, Ethiopia, to ensure the academic progression and social support of students from Eritrea. The university also plans to provide training for early career researchers, professors, and pre-service teacher in GCED to support development across the education system.

As a framing paradigm, GCED “encapsulates how education can develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes learners need for securing a world which is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable” (UNESCO, 2014). Connecting the cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioural dimensions of learning, GCED takes a holistic approach that can be articulated differently in diverse contexts.

While fostering local networks to support newcomer students, Dr. Tarozzi also works to build global networks to support GCED promotion across the global north. Working with a team of researchers and in partnership with the Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research at the University of Alberta, Canada, Dr. Tarozzi has recently explored networks of actors in the GCED sector across Europe and North America. He is also coordinator of the activities of the Academic Network of Global Education and Learning (ANGEL): this global network will be a special partner of the Chair, providing further possibilities of networking and disseminating activities.

“I’m excited to start this formal collaboration with UNESCO, which is the key player championing Global Citizenship Education across the world. A GCED perspective in higher education is critical to progress the whole Agenda 2030,” Dr. Tarozzi said.

Dr. Tarozzi joins the existing UNESCO Chairs supporting ongoing contributions to GCED, including:

Professor Paul Carr from Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada, UNESCO Chair in Democracy, Global Citizenship and Transformative Education
Professor Carlos Alberto Torres, Director of the Paulo Freire Institute and Associate Dean for Global Programs, University of California, Los Angeles, United States, UNESCO Chair on Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education
Professor James Williams from The School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University, Director of the International Education Program and UNESCO Chair in International Education for Development
In particular, the introduction of GCED along with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, namely in SDG 4 Target 4.7, has influenced the political agenda of national governments worldwide to integrate these two programmes in education policy and practice. The proposed Chair goals and activities focusing on GCED align with UNESCO’s strategic goals as well as the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular empowering learners to be creative and responsible global citizens.