The statement below, “The Knowledge Zone of Ideas, Progress and Free People,” is a foundational statement of APLU, an organization of leading public research universities and university systems in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. A draft document was widely circulated to membership leaders and discussed at the APLU annual meeting and in other forums. The final statement includes important feedback and refinement.
This document provides the overarching and driving purposes for public universities in North America to work together for the region, their countries, and their students and faculty. APLU looks forward to working together to expand and enrich research in energy, food, water, environment, health, economic development, and much more. We will work together on problems that cut across the three countries, including research and student and faculty exchange.
APLU is an association of more than 230 public research universities and university systems in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
APLU and its members are committed to championing ideas that drive the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge to solve the most vexing challenges of their country and region. They are committed to free peoples who have access to the education and opportunity necessary to shape their own destinies.
APLU and its members have a strong commitment to both joint research and student/faculty exchanges across North America. In addition, APLU and its members see themselves as important partners in the growing economic and social collaboration of the three countries. The process is at times uneven and the collaboration must respect and build upon each country’s unique strengths. While ties between Canada, Mexico, and the United States continue to deepen, their societies are already inextricably linked.
The U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), arranged in 1987, laid the foundation for a new cooperative and productive relationship between the two countries. With the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, Canada, Mexico, and the United States made the historic decision to expand greater trade and investments and work more closely together. The NAFTA pact proved to be a watershed moment that, along with a host of other North American agreements, brought the three countries closer together. By leveraging each country’s advantages, improving communication, and bolstering cooperation, these agreements have transformed the continent.
NAFTA has dramatically increased the free exchange of ideas, commerce, and people throughout North America. Intraregional trade has grown by roughly 400 percent since the trade agreement went into effect, with significant increases in exports of each partner to the other two countries.
The continent’s present and future rests, of course, in its people. A large number of people from each country work and live in the other partner countries. The U.S., in particular, is seeing a rapid growth in its Hispanic population. And with those changing demographics, the U.S. is experiencing a major positive cultural impact. Although immigration remains a contentious political issue in the United States, APLU, in keeping with its role as a North American association, has been a leader in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform to the U.S. Congress.
The deepening economic, social, and cultural relationship among the three countries has produced improvements across the continent. But important as this progress may be, a large number of issues remain unresolved. Many issues facing each country have cross-border implications, including on the continent’s environment, agriculture, human and animal health, and energy. Gains in human welfare and economic prosperity in the two decades since NAFTA’s implementation prove what is possible when the continent’s three countries work together, and have helped clarify the need for further integration and cooperation.
The public universities in the three countries are significant institutions – educationally, economically, and culturally. They all have the public purpose of educating students, undertaking research, and contributing solutions to the problems facing their regions, countries, and the international community at large. As a North American higher education association, APLU and its members understand they are uniquely positioned to address the challenges and opportunities facing the continent. As public institutions, APLU and its members believe they must contribute to the solutions and progress of the region through education, joint research, and collaborative problem solving.
It is the commitment of APLU and its members to contribute to and help drive progress across North America through a “Zone of Knowledge.” APLU embraces its role as a catalyst to promote interaction, participation, and joint work across the continent through its wide range of councils, commissions, committees and special initiatives. This document serves as a framework from which to build.
Julia Michaels, Deputy Director of APLU's Center for Public University Transformation, was a panelist at two sessions at the Higher Learning Commission’s annual conference on April 8, alongside four institutions from the Big 10, Urban, and Metropolitan clusters of the association's Powered by Publics initiative. The panels showcased each university’s student success work and how peer collaboration through Powered by Publics is helping them accelerate change on campus.