NUI Galway welcomes elite university leaders to city

President Michael D Higgins will address the 2013 Coimbra Group Annual Conference taking place at NUI, Galway this week.

This is the first time that NUI Galway has hosted the event in 25 years. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Creativity, Research and Innovation in Universities’. The conference will run from Wednesday May 22 to Friday May 24.

The symposium ‘Creativity, Research and Innovation in Universities’ on the final day of the conference will feature the keynote address by President Higgins. Other keynote speeches and panel discussions will feature contributions from the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation, and Science, Maire Geoghegan-Qunn; Columbia University’s dean of the Arts, Professor Carol Becker; Professor of modern European languages at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, Joep Leerssen; and the director general of the Science Foundation of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson.

Founded in 1985, the Coimbra Group is an association of multidisciplinary universities of high international standard and rank. Alongside NUI Galway, other members include University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, Trinity College Dublin, Universita di Bologna and Saint Petersburg State University.

President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, is particularly excited ahead of the conference and stresses its significance to the University as well as Ireland as a whole. “NUI Galway is a proud member of the Coimbra Group since 1986,” he said. “As a university on the western edge of Europe we value deeply the rich network of connections and links which the Group has fostered to promote excellence in scholarship, research and service to society. It is particularly fitting that the conference returns to Galway in the year in which Ireland holds the Presidency of the European Union and at a time when the conference theme of Creativity, Research & Innovation in Universities could not be more relevant or timely for our European universities.”

The aim of the group is to create and maintain academic and cultural ties in order to promote internationalisation, academic collaboration, excellence in research, the exchange of experience and knowledge, and of course a lasting service to society. The group is also involved in influencing and developing European educational policy so as to best suit its member universities and students.

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn, who will speak at the event, also sees the benefits of discussing the central themes of creativity and innovation as a step forward for Irish universities. “If we want to tackle our biggest societal challenges and develop technology-based business, we need an excellent science base and we need to train creative graduates and foster critical and innovative mind-sets. In my view, universities should become 'innovation centres' for their region. They should train and retrain the workforce in cooperation with industry. Mobility between industry and academia should become the norm.”

Speaking in advance of the conference, Dorothy Kelly, Chair of the Coimbra Group Executive Board, commented that the group are particularly delighted to be coming to Galway and the significance of holding the event in Ireland in 2013. “We are delighted to be revisiting NUI Galway after 25 years,” she said. “This year the theme is a reflection of the central role universities play in societal progress and wellbeing as open, diverse and critical spaces for the pursuit of knowledge something we look forward to discussing at length. We are particularly honoured this year to welcome to our meetings both the President of the Republic of Ireland, Dr Michael Higgins, and the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation & Science, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, as we hold our 29th General Assembly in Ireland and under the Irish presidency of the European Union.”

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