"Leadership in Higher Education and Research in Times of Dynamic Global Change"



Online, 09 – 10 June 2021
Co-organized by ETH Zurich & EWORA

The European Women Rectors Association (EWORA) is pleased to announce the 7th EWORA Conference on Leadership in Higher Education and Research in Times of Dynamic Global Changewhich will be held "online" 

In this conference, the complexities that leaders navigate in change processes will be explored, and the influence of international crises such as climate change and pandemics in mediating the structural changes for achieving gender equality in academia will be shared through keynotes, panel discussions, and interactive workshops. EWORA cordially invites women in leadership positions at universities and research organizations, gender experts, and members of higher education networks to join this conference.


“Change is a challenging process, which involves the interplay of many agents”. Moreover, academic working environments have their own organizational cultures and structures, which differ extensively even within themselves” (Saglamer et al, 2016). This conference specifically aims to discuss leadership in academia since university leaders must respond at different time scales in times of crises: more long-term in the case of climate change and extremely suddenly during a pandemic. Accordingly, McRoy and Gibbs (2009) assert that “just as change is complex, so is the act of leadership, which requires those who aspire to lead to be able to communicate the desired vision, model the roles that will lead to effective implementation, and possess the managerial skills to deal with aspects of change”.


Most recently, the Higher Education and Research area in Europe and worldwide have been faced with a sudden crisis that created a strong impact on all the actions and activities of the universities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. University leaders have had to take rapid decisions to re-shape the educational and research activities in their universities and “to coordinate such a massive effort as closing entire education systems” (World Bank Policy Paper, 2020). The difficulties that leaders mostly faced, the strategies they developed to handle the challenges that occurred in this period will be one of the important sub-themes to be explored in this conference. Accordingly, how this change process already triggered by the pandemic will be transformed in post-coronavirus society will be one another question to be discussed at the 7th EWORA Conference. As stated by Kandri (2020), “we can expect a different kind of educational model to emerge from COVID-19”.


On the other hand, global warming has been one of the most urgent and foremost crises in recent years, where the higher education sector has been mobilized to act rapidly and contribute to research and teaching on climate change, as well as outreach and political action.  According to the report of Second Nature, “climate change poses serious threats to human civilization, yet it offers opportunities to create a better future. Colleges and universities face clear and growing risks from climate disruption, and it is critical that presidents, trustees, and those with fiduciary responsibility for these institutions be aware of these risks”. These global challenges bring very important side effects together with them, such as economic crises, shortage of food, water and energy that breaks the supply chain and multiplies the dimension of problems that have to be considered in advance to save lives and societies.

The 7th EWORA Conference will further question the extent to which the complexity in change processes impacts leadership and explores how these complexities interact with advancing gender equality in academia. The forces of change require prompt decisions and actions in the highly competitive Higher Education and Research area.  Conflicting demands and the necessity for rapid responses can create challenging situations for decision-makers, where they may be required to choose between conflicting priorities.  On the other hand, as the main objective of EWORA is to advance gender equality in leadership, this conference will question how gender equality can be incorporated in decision- making processes especially during the times of dynamic global change. For instance, the gendered consequences of COVID-19 is a significant issue that has been highlighted frequently during the pandemic. Therefore, how has this crisis influenced women academics differently when compared to their male counterparts or why “gender” matters in climate change are other subjects to be examined. Within this regard, the results of the EWORA Survey “Putting a Gender Perspective to COVID 19 & Higher Education” with women leaders of academia will be also shared with the audience.

This conference will empower established leaders and inspire young leaders, who will learn the strategies that senior women leaders apply while dealing with complexities such as the pandemic or climate change that has been affecting educational systems worldwide.

We cordially invite you to attend the 7th EWORA Conference and look forward to working together to increase women’s effectiveness at decision-making levels in higher education and research