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Secretary General

Hilligje van’t Land
IAU Secretary General, International Association of Universities
Executive Director, International Universities Bureau


As is the case everywhere in the world, for IAU the years passed have been unprecedented and challenging ones, characterised by uncertainty, complexity, and disruption, but also by accelerated innovation, and the enormous resilience and humanity we share as a global higher education community. The unfortunately still ongoing profound health, economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and now increased global geopolitical challenges provide the opportunity for a critical redefinition of the way in which universities and other higher education institutions, and as well their organisations and associations operate.

IAU was quick to adapt to the new normal and decided to make optimal use of the available resources through several new initiatives. To enhance cooperation and exchange, we launched the IAU Webinar Series on the Future of Higher Education – short, medium, and long-term perspectives, to bring together different ideas and perspectives from Members of our global community of universities and higher education institutions. The fundamental transformation to our now hybrid operation mode has been consistent with the IAU values and goals.

It is clear that the Higher Education sector, like all others, must be prepared for events with the potential to severely disrupt ‘normal’ operations. Understanding change, responding to it, and managing it, requires strong leadership. I believe now is the time to drive radical transformation of our education systems and institutions for the benefit of society. As we look to the future, we must set our ambitions even higher — to accelerate societal progress, drive sustainable growth and heighten our global impact.

Together, we can achieve what IAU founders envisioned: a more peaceful society, prosperous world, and sustainable future for higher education. The road ahead is however paved with challenges again as we see populism grow, detractors to the value of science and facts become more vocal and higher education’s value for society on the one hand cheered and on the other challenged. We need to care for the sector together to ensure it will receive the trust it deserves and the support it needs in order to fully contribute to building a better and more inclusive world.

With the IAU President, Members of the Administrative Board (2022-2026), and members of the IAU Secretariat, I would like to thank all Members and partners for their much valued commitment and support to the work of the Association and your active engagement. We commit to continue to address the new challenges ahead and to best seize the opportunities and will put all valuable lessons learnt to the benefit of navigating complexity with agility, innovation, entrepreneurship, and responsible leadership to further our mission of building stronger, more accessible, and sustainable higher education systems all over the world.

Hilligje van‘t Land, PhD

NGO in official partnership with UNESCO in associate status
International Association of Universities, UNESCO House, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris cedex 15, France
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