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Secretary General

Hilligje van’t Land

IAU Secretary General
International Association of Universities
Executive Director
International Universities Bureau


Since 1 September 2017, Dr. Hilligje van’t Land assumes the position of Secretary General of the International Association of Universities and Executive Director of the International Universities Bureau.

For the past two decades, she has worked at IAU committing to make higher education a key driver of societal change. Over the past years, initially as Director and later as Deputy Secretary General, she co-supervised the overall programmatic activities of the IAU and the everyday work of the secretariat, she engaged in developing the IAU Membership base and strengthening the IAU membership development strategy. She positioned the IAU as lead partner network in the UNESCO Global Action Program on ESD by promoting the role of higher education and research in addressing the goals set in the context of Agenda 2030 (HESD). She engaged the Association in strategic partnerships to advance HESD and represented IAU at external events to foster leadership engagement and advance action at all institutional levels. She strongly believes in the importance of intercultural understanding and developed projects and other initiatives to promote higher education’s actions in this field. Convinced that societies can foster research and innovation through innovative approaches to doctoral education, she developed a six-year project on this topic for Africa and internationally. She represents IAU in various working groups and expert Committees including at the Council of Europe where she contributed to intercultural understanding initiatives and related publications, and more recently the development of a European Framework for Competences for Democratic Citizenship.

Prior to joining the IAU, Dr van’t Land taught comparative francophone literature at the Universities of Groningen, Laval (Québec) and Avignon et les Pays du Vaucluse. For five years she also headed the Institute for American Universities in Avignon. She has been very active in the field of Canadian Studies globally, since 1987.
She holds a PhD in comparative contemporary francophone literatures from Groningen University, in the Netherlands and completed a post doc research period at Laval University (Québec) before moving back to France. She speaks six languages and produced a number of publications related to higher education.

Word from the Secretary General

“I dedicated my career to the advancement of higher education.
Today, I am proud to take up the responsibilities that come with the position of Secretary General of the prestigious International Association of Universities (IAU).

In close collaboration with the IAU President, the Members of the Administrative Board, and the Members of the secretariat, I will continue the excellent work undertaken by my predecessor Eva Egron-Polak and will work to ensure an efficient and impactful implementation of the IAU vision and mission. The IAU Strategic Plan 2016-2020 adopted in Bangkok in November 2016 leads the way for the years to come but plans are also being elaborated for way beyond.

IAU has worked to enhance international cooperation among universities since its inception. It has accompanied them in understanding and benefiting from a globalized world.

The four key strategic priorities as selected by the Board provide a solid frame for action. IAU has developed unique advisory services on internationalization to assist higher education leaders define or refine their own internationalization strategies; the Association developed a strong leadership programme and provides several cooperation platforms. It fosters exchange on sustainable development teaching, research and campus initiatives, and is in the development phase of a new strategy to understand the contribution of ICTs both in teaching and research but also throughout the institution.

The IAU knowledge hub - with its flagship publication, the World Higher Education Database (WHED), its peer reviewed research journal Higher Education Policy, its internationally renowned magazine IAU Horizons, the renewed ebulletin IAU Lynx, - is constantly updated and improved to better serve the global higher education community to the full.
As IAU Secretary General, I am committed to ensure this Association brings the necessary support to its Member universities and organizations as well as the overall higher education community. I will promote the ethics and values that must underpin higher education and develop activities to support our community in responding to current challenges.”

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