Sergio Mattarella, the president of Italy, spoke to the vice-chancellors in the Quirinal Palace, and many EU dignitaries, among them Federica Mogherini, gave speeches that emphasised the importance of research and higher education, most of all for strengthening the critical thinking skills so necessary for confronting our modern “contradictions and complexities.”

Participating in international networks is incredibly important to my mission as Vice-Chancellor and also brings new perspectives to national and more local concerns. I personally participated in a panel that focused on the importance of European universities for Europe. It’s clear that we have differing viewpoints and ways of approaching issues. But international cooperation is about finding the commonalities. This was especially evident at the final panel discussion which addressed the current challenges for universities. Even though each country may be different, we are all part of a global process – of financing, internationalising, digitalising – the focus on societal challenges, collaboration, and much more. It was fascinating to learn about the shifting national perspectives on these problems, especially from Great Britain during the time of Brexit.