When I put pen to paper for last year’s Christmas message to YERUN colleagues, there was hope in the air, thanks to the successful development of new COVID-19 vaccines – some of them, such as Astra-Zeneca, leaning heavily on University-led research. Thanks to vaccination programmes, our universities have been able to return to some form of normality, with the welcome return of students to campus. However, it is clear that COVID is just one of a range of major challenges facing our world. This reality has bolstered my strong conviction that universities, through Research, Education and Innovation, must seek to maximise their impact on the world around them.
As part of this approach, DCU this year welcomed the first cohort of students taking a suite of 10 new undergraduate programmes under the banner ‘DCU Futures’. Developed in collaboration with key industry partners, these programmes include degrees such as the BSc in Global Challenges, and the BSc in Psychology and Disruptive Technologies. The programmes focus on interdisciplinarity and the development of transferable skills. Our hope is that graduates of these degrees will be primed to innovate and collaborate across disciplines so that, as a society, we can meet local, national and global challenges and make the best use of emerging technologies.
Alongside the development of talented and agile graduates, it is clear that if we are to address global challenges, Universities must expand and deepen their engagement with society. The Engaged Research concept is an ever-growing movement across Europe. In recent weeks, I was proud to officially open DCU’s new Centre for Engaged Research. Although our University, like others in the YERUN network, already conducts a range of Engaged Research projects, the creation of centres like this, sharpens our focus on the need to deliver positive societal impact. By turning research into an active partnership with society, we can more effectively address a whole range of pressing public needs, and contribute meaningfully to the creation of a more just and sustainable society for all.