Inside Track | Knowledge Equity Network 

Professors Simone Buitendijk and Nick Plant outline a major new initiative to collaboratively tackle our biggest global challenges by truly opening up access to quality higher education for all.

Inside Track | Knowledge Equity Network. July 2022

Imagine a world in which human knowledge is shared more equitably, unhindered by barriers of cost, time or national borders. 

Just think what could be achieved by marshalling the latest ground-breaking research and offering research-led, challenge-focused education at scale, as part of a global effort to meet – and solve – the biggest challenges facing our planet.

This change is desperately needed and long overdue. Now is the time for action, not just words. That’s why later this year, the University of Leeds is creating and championing a bold new initiative – the Knowledge Equity Network – to throw open the doors to knowledge in higher education; in teaching, research and societal outreach.  

In the above video, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Nick Plant, talk about our exciting new Knowledge Equity Network initiative.

The Knowledge Equity Network will create a community of like-minded leaders, policymakers, universities, funders and experts to support collaboration and the democratisation of knowledge. 

Our exciting plans have been developed in response to the simple fact that we all know to be true, yet many choose to ignore: while our planet and its population face unprecedented challenges, there’s a yawning – and widening – disparity between rich and poor, global north and south, and the ability of different communities to tackle those challenges.  

Knowledge is power 

To fulfil our ambitions, there needs to be big changes in how knowledge is conceptualised and used. Knowledge only has lasting value when it is shared. Yet across society there is a tendency to resist sharing because knowledge is seen as property. Too often, knowledge can only be accessed by those with the financial means to do so. 

Higher education can help to reduce global inequalities by establishing unrestricted, truly open and equitable access to quality education and research for everyone. 

But this is nearly impossible to achieve at scale for a single institution. 

By creating and championing the Knowledge Equity Network, we will place Leeds at the heart of a global community combining research and innovation, research-led student education and knowledge exchange. In doing so, it will support our institutional commitment to making a positive impact in the world, as stated in our University Strategy  – Universal Values, Global Change.

Global declaration 

The first major step on this road will be a hybrid summit at Leeds in November, where we will officially launch the Knowledge Equity Network. We will invite leaders, policymakers, HEIs, funders and experts to sign up to a global declaration and work towards a common goal – driving down inequalities through the sharing of knowledge. We’re already speaking to a core group of partners to help shape the draft declaration, which will be used to gain traction, evidence commitment and deliver positive impact. In November, we will also agree actions to drive forward this exciting programme.

The Knowledge Equity Network is fundamentally different to previous declarations, as it will encompass education, knowledge exchange, and research and innovation. The summit will be a unique opportunity to begin to shape how we can achieve a holistic commitment for fair and equitable access to human knowledge around the globe. But the summit is really only the start – our plan is for an international conference in 2025.

These are bold, ambitious plans – but they are achievable. Through building strong networks and partnerships across the global higher education sector – as well as with governmental agencies, policymakers, funders, publishers and suppliers, and the general public – the Knowledge Equity Network will be able tackle the major challenges facing our world. 

First steps 

At this early stage, we want to hear from Leeds colleagues who want to contribute. We are currently seeking four part-time Engagement Leads, who may be either academic or professional services colleagues. These roles are exciting opportunities for people who want to make a difference.

Please get in touch if you would like to be part of this historic initiative.

As a community, we hope you will join us in taking the first steps towards building an international movement dedicated to unlocking knowledge for a fair future.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Nick Plant

Posted in: