The International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy

A Global Research Network to Support Development of Democratic Societies Through Education Mission and Structure


The International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy (IC) seeks to develop, explain and advance the contributions of higher education to democracy on college and university campuses, their local communities and the wider society. The Consortium works in collaboration with the Council of Europe (COE)* and its Steering Committee on Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) with representatives of the 50 States party to the European Cultural Convention and is comprised of the United States (represented by a Steering Committee from the American Association of State Colleges and UniversitiesAmerican Council on Education, Anchors Institutions Task ForceAssociation of American Colleges and UniversitiesCampus Compact, Democracy Commitment, and NASPA-Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education), Australia (Engagement Australia), the United Kingdom (represented by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement), Ireland (Campus Engage Ireland), and South Africa (represented by Universities South Africa), as well as the Magna Charta Observatory.  The Organization of American States (OAS)* joined the cooperation between the IC and COE in April 2018.* The International Association of Universities (IAU)* joined the cooperation in October 2019. In January 2021, CoE, IC, OAS, and IAU formally named their partnership the Global Cooperation for the Democratic Mission of Higher Education.

The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania houses the executive offices of the Consortium. Ira Harkavy, Associate Vice President and Founding Director of the Netter Center, is the Chair.


The rationale for the International Consortium is based on four propositions:

  1. A crisis exists in democratic development globally. Decreasing levels of participation in politics and civic activities, a decline of confidence in government and other institutions, along with declining student participation in school and university governance, are indicators of the deterioration of public engagement in the established democracies.
  2. Education and the schooling system play central roles in determining the democratic development of societies. The COE’s Budapest Declaration for a Greater Europe without Dividing Lines, adopted on its 50th anniversary (May 1999), placed the education system in the forefront of democratic development. The Council’s 2005 European Year of Citizenship Through Education followed up this statement with a series of activities and programs.
  3. The university is the key institution in shaping democratic development through its influence on the schooling system and education within society. In July 1999, 51 college and university presidents in the United States signed a “Presidents’ Fourth of July Declaration on the Civic Responsibility of Higher Education.” To date, 536 colleges have signed the Declaration, which highlights the university’s central role in citizenship education.





Membership in the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy is granted by country. Higher Education Institutions must have a representative body sponsor their membership. In the International Consortium’s initial phase, each country was required to complete the pilot study on “Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility.” Although the pilot phase of the research study is complete, new member countries will be encouraged to complete the study. Please contact us for more information on joining the International Consortium.

* The Council of Europe, established in 1949, defends human rights, democracy and the rule of law, develops continent-wide agreements to standardize member countries’ social and legal practices, and promotes awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures. The COE is Europe’s oldest political organization, and the Council’s membership totals 47 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe.  Another three States are party to the European Cultural Convention, which provides the framework for the Council of Europe’s work in education policy and practice.

* The Organization of American States was established in 1948 in order to achieve among its member states—as stipulated in Article 1 of the Charter—”an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.” Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, as well as to the European Union (EU).  The OAS uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its main pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development.

* The International Association of Universities, created under the auspices of UNESCO in 1950, is a membership-based organisation serving the global higher education community through: expertise & trends analysis, publications & portals, advisory services, peer-to-peer learning, events, global advocacy. IAU brings together its Members from more than 130 countries for reflection and action on common priorities. IAU is an independent, bilingual (English and French), non-governmental organization. It acts as the global voice of higher education to UNESCO and other international higher education organizations, and provides a global forum for leaders of institutions and associations. Its services are available on the priority basis to Members but also to organisations, institutions and authorities concerned with higher education, as well as to individual policy and decision-makers, specialists, administrators, teachers, researchers and students.


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