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A Network for Shaping the Role of Universities in the 21st Century

Foundation and Development of the „Academic Consortium for the 21st Century“

The „Academic Consortium for the 21st Century“ (AC21) was established in 2002 during the "International Forum" hosted by Nagoya University, Japan. The overarching theme of this event „The Role of the Universities in the 21st Century“ became until today the guideline for the activities of this network. The founding members, among them also Technische Universität Chemnitz, defined a set of missions of the AC21 network: First, that in an era of continuous change it should take initiative to respond to the rapidly transforming needs of society. Second, that it should make use of its common pool of knowledge, expertise, and experience to promote cooperation in education and research between its members and beyond. Third, that is should bridge different societies around the world and that it should deliver insights to all people so to mutually understand and share values, knowledge, and cultures which are necessary for improving the quality of life and foster co-existence beyond national and regional boundaries in the 21st century.

Since then, the AC21-network has been developing a range of activities in order to implement these objectives. Thus, the "International Forums" became a set tradition bringing together high-ranking delegations from administration and academia of the AC21-member universities and other institutions. They take place every two years at a changing AC21-host university in order to discuss an overarching theme in accord with global megatrends and of special interest for the further development of the network. Integrated in these events are also meetings of the main bodies of the AC21-network, namely, the AC21 Steering Committee and the AC21 General Assembly. The overall management of the network rests with the AC21 General Secretariat located at Nagoya University, Japan.

In 2005, the format of the "International Forum" was also taken to the student level with the organization of the “1st AC21 Student World Forum” hosted by Nagoya University. The idea of these events is to bring together participants from all AC21-member universities and beyond in order to discuss an important overall topic – but this time at the level of students.

In 2008, these activities were complemented by the establishment of the “AC21 Special Project Fund”. It was created with the objective to support cooperative projects between AC21-member universities which are contributing considerably to the overall mission of the network such as symposia, workshops, schooling projects, or small international forums. The funding is allocated in a competitive manner through the assessment of proposals submitted following an annual call. Selected projects fulfill criteria like the inclusion of several AC21-member institutions from different countries and the involvement of students and younger researchers.

The newest event format of the network are the “AC21 International Graduate Schools” aiming at assembling graduate students from AC21-member universities and beyond in order to participate in a program focusing on cutting-edge research and dealing with topics of global interest. The 1st AC21 International Graduate School was held in 2013 at Bangkok and hosted by Chulalongkorn University and Kasetsart University.

As one of its founding members, Technische Universität Chemnitz is a key driver in the further development of the AC21-network. Thus, it not only counts among the members of the AC21-Steering Committee but also helps to develop new formats, for example by organizing the “AC21 Network Meetings” during the annual conferences of NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, every year since 2009. They serve as a platform in between the International Forums for discussing topics of common interest and for developing ideas for new projects between representatives of AC21-member universities.

Last but not least, Technische Universität Chemnitz hosted and will host the most predominant events of the AC21-network: In 2009, the “3rd AC21 Student World Forum” was held at Chemnitz. Within six days from the 22 to 27 June 2009, more than 50 participants from AC21-member universities had the opportunity to think through the overall topic “Production – Meeting the Global Challenges”. Impressions of this event can still be found in a diary, a photo gallery, and a film published on the special website created for this event (

Now, Technische Universität Chemnitz is very much looking forward to hosting the 8th AC21 International Forum, which will take place from 30 April to 3 May 2016 and will deal with the overarching theme “Networks of innovation for the transformation of society through science”. All interested academics and members of the university management are invited to register for this event on the AC21 International Forum 2016 website ( which provides also continuously updated information on the program.

In case of any need for further information and assistance, inquiries may be sent to: Technische Universität Chemnitz is very much looking forward to welcoming its guests to the 8th AC21 International Forum 2016 – and also to upcoming AC21-events in the future.

(Author: Dr. Wolfgang Lambrecht, International Office)

Mario Steinebach

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