World Universities – From Mission Completed To Mission Impossible

It is very interesting to understand the role of universities and their mission in the past and in the present and how would such role and mission look like in the future. The universities around the world are undergoing several changes with new pressures and constrains as the world itself is becoming more and more dynamic, complex and unpredictable. With growing population, declining resources, increasing mobility of people, changing demography and diversification of the labor market. Also, with enhanced pressures on rapid transformation to sustainable socio-economies with strict policies for effective implementation of the UN-SDG it is hard to believe that the universities, their role, mission and in particular their interaction with other sectors will remain to be the same. Questions arise; how would universities look like in the future in particular their role to guide society and population into more sustainable future and economy at least on local and regional levels. In fact, sustainable future is what policy-makers, the populations, the market, new comers and professionals are eager to have and contribute in.

Until the 19th century, religion played a significant role in university curriculum; however, the role of religion in research and university affairs decreased in the 19th century, and by the end of the 19th century, the German university model had spread around the world. Universities concentrated on science in the 19th and 20th centuries and became increasingly accessible to the masses. The move from Industrial Revolution to modernity saw the arrival of new civic universities with an emphasis on science and engineering.

As universities increasingly came under state control, the faculty governance model became more and more prominent. Although the older student-controlled universities still existed, they slowly started to move toward this structural organization. Control of universities still tended to be independent, although university leadership was increasingly appointed by the state. A university is in general (Latin: universitas, “a whole”) still an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which grants academic degrees in various subjects and typically provides undergraduate and postgraduate education. The word “university” also means “community of teachers and scholars.” (

The University’s mission and core values
sustainable development is a concept that is not new, and yet it is complex and not easy to define. In 1987, the Brundtland report from the World Commission on Environment and Development defined it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. With the birth of the UN-SDG, the role for higher education in sustainable development in becoming more and more critical in many aspects. Institutions now have the responsibility, more than ever before, to integrate sustainable development into all their teaching, research, community engagement and campus operation. A chain of many changes will gradually shape and reshape higher education and R&D around the world. So the mission of universities is far from being complete and has never been as complex as it is today (

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