The enhancement of the strategic role of Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a driving force in sustainable rural development at the local level in areas worldwide, and in contributing to global initiatives.

Sub theme A: Education for Sustainable Rural Development

Contemporary rural societies need to balance the generation of a thriving local economy producing safe and healthy food, and bio-renewable resources with the need to address issues such as maintaining biodiversity, environmental management, resource use and global warming.  A successful local rural economy will combat the threats imposed by rural depopulation and the consequent trend towards excessive urbanisation.

Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences thus face the dual educational challenges for their students of promoting entrepreneurship and of developing the skills needed in achieving a sustainable rural environment.

1. What competences do graduates need at the start of their careers to support the development of a sustainable rural environment?

2. How have universities involved stakeholders, who are working to develop a sustainable rural environment, in the design of degree programmes that are fit for purpose in meeting the expectations for    sustainable rural development?

3. What original concepts and approaches have Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences implemented to develop graduates with the skills and holistic thinking to support the development of sustainable rural environments?

4. How do Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences promote a spirit of entrepreneurship and the sense of responsibility towards sustainable development in rural areas among their staff and students?

5. What examples or original perspectives are there of innovative educational programs developed by Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences in order to promote the value-added chains in food and non food uses in the rural economy?

6. How have universities involved stakeholders in the development of continuing professional development (life long learning) initiatives to support the updating and re-skilling of graduates working to promote sustainable rural development?

Sub theme B: Research and Innovation Strategies

Achieving research and innovation strategies at Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences whose outcomes result in knowledge and technology transfer that enhances the prosperity of local enterprises.

7. How to address the conflict between the push by universities for world wide university ranking through publication in high index publications with the desire to favour within universities the path from pure to applied research and innovative ventures in support of local sustainable rural development?

8. What models are there that demonstrate the successful role of the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences in facilitating knowledge and technology transfer to support the development of the local economy by developing technological parks and platforms, clusters, incubators, or through other tools?

9. What type of links between the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences and local enterprises should be favoured in research and innovation activities?

10. How can Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences efficiently develop research activities in sustainable rural development that effectively address and fulfil the real needs of local enterprises and society?

Sub theme C: Partnership Strategies with Local Stakeholders

Collaboration between Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences and their local stakeholders to encourage and support the development of successful new partnerships for local economic development in the rural environment.

The possibility to establish permanent and strong relationships with their local stakeholders (either local or regional government, private companies, institutions, or other stakeholders such as consumer groups, other social networking groups, and individual citizens) at local and regional level is of tremendous importance for the success of the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences in their roles towards sustainable rural development.

11. How to build trust, how to create an atmosphere of exchange and mutual commitment between the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences and their stakeholders?

12. How to develop, within universities, competences and know-how that will foster actions strengthening  relationships with external partners – capacity building?

13.  How to create and encourage such initiatives in terms of new forms of partnership?

14. What new roles could Rectors and Deans endorse in the building of these new partnerships?

15. How to encourage a cultural change from an academic to a corporate culture within a university?

 

Sub theme D: Strategic Positioning of universities of agriculture  and life sciences

Besides the above points the conference will reflect on the strategic choices that Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences have to make if they want to maintain and strengthen their position in supporting the greening of the global and local economy. Universities/Faculties of Agriculture and Life Sciences are indeed in competition with other university disciplines in supporting sustainable rural development, and it is necessary to better recognise their strengths and weaknesses within this context, at the local, regional and global levels. Keynote speakers and a round table discussion will therefore address the following issues:

  • What are the strategic boundaries of the Universities/Faculties of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the challenge of the green economy vis à vis other university disciplines? In particular how do “agricultural and forestry departments”, as applied environmental sciences, share the continuum of the green economy with the more theoretical “environmental science departments”?
  • How do the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences take advantage of their core competences in order to keep a strong position in the local, regional and global higher education landscape?
  • How do Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences develop a global efficient network in order to better work together and develop strategic cooperation to address the issues facing the rural economies of developing and developed rural economies?
  • What type of local/regional/global governance of networks of Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences should be encouraged in support of capacity building at the local level?