UNIC successfully hosted the 8th International Symposium on Service-Learning

 ISSL discussed the theme of “Critical Service-Learning Across the Globe: Transforming Teaching into Social Action”

The University of Nicosia hosted, between 8 and 11 June, the 8th International Symposium on Service-Learning (ISSL). The Symposium, co-organised with the University of Indianapolis, Stellenbosch University and Campus Compact, discussed the theme of “Critical Service-Learning Across the Globe: Transforming Teaching into Social Action” and focused on transitions in Higher Education and the role that critical service-learning plays in social transformation.

With international participation from countries such as the United States, South Africa, Austria, Japan, various European countries and Cyprus, the presenters included academics, service-learning experts and various organisations constituting a vibrant and diverse community which gathered at the University of Nicosia to celebrate and discuss the importance of the teachings of social work, volunteering, and leadership.

During his welcoming speech, the University of Nicosia Rector, Professor Philippos Pouyioutas, noted: “Universities are called upon to meet the modern challenges facing our planet. The key strategic goals of the European Union and Higher Education revolve around the green and digital transition, the fight against misinformation and false “alternative truth”, the implementation of the United Nations Strategy for the Sustainable Development 2030 and its 17 goals, the defense of democracy and our principles and values, social and economic equality and the creation of a just society. Modern universities are therefore not introverted organizations, closed within their walls and away from society, the labour market, and the challenges facing our world. Instead, they are living cells and active partners of society, co-creators of social change and prosperity.”

He then pointed out the distinctions of the University of Nicosia with regards social contribution and particularly referred to the relevant ranking successes stating “The University of Nicosia is fully committed towards the implementation of the Knowledge Square and its four pillars. This has in part led to our recognition amongst the top 601-800 Universities in the world by Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Moreover, the University of Nicosia ranks in the top 301-400 Universities in the world for its social and economic impact, and number 47 in the Quality Education Sustainable Development Goal, the latter because of the employment of methods such as Service Learning in our portfolio of pedagogical methods. We are fully committed to further employing such methods and to improving further our already impressive position in the major university rankings.”

In his turn, Co-Chair of the Symposium and Senior Vice Rector of the University of Nicosia, Professor Constantinos N. Phellas, stated during his welcoming note: “Our chief objective as educators, volunteers and global leaders, is to become agents of positive change for our communities and universities”, and remarked that for this process to materialise, academics need to engage more often in conversation with their peers, share insights from each other’s discipline, and invest more in civic engagement across their communities.

Professor Ν. Phellas highlighted the fact that the University of Nicosia aims towards these tasks by maintaining solid dialogue and communication with all relevant stakeholders, be they part of civil society, other universities and research organisations, private organisations and industries, or the local and regional authorities. He concluded by saying: “We aim to serve, to inspire, and to cultivate not only the skills of our students, but also to train the future leaders so as to enable them to embrace an aura of creativity, innovation, and success.”

Keynote Speaker, Mr Demetris Hadjisofocli, Co-Founder and CEO of the Centre of Social Innovation (CSI) noted that during this era where collaboration, integration, global interaction, consolidation of needs and production, where communication has become so much easier and data collection and data analysis can be easily achieved at low cost, stakeholders are enabled to come together and develop roadmaps which lead to a mutually beneficial education and new training systems. “The Collaboration between academia, businesses, civil society, communities, and the state are essential so as to design an agile, flexible and adjustable education system leading to a world of diversity, equity in opportunities, inclusion, better and more relevant productivity, lower cost structures, and above all engaged, happy, caring, and giving citizens”, he remarked.

The Symposium included an NGO Fair hosting various actively engaged non-governmental organisations from Cyprus and abroad, workshops, presentations, as well as a service experience project, in the framework of which participants engaged in a CSI-led project on Green Rooftops, covering the Seven Stars Tower with plants. The Symposium concluded with a Cyprus-wide excursion which gave the opportunity to the participants to visit cultural locations around the island.