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UNESCO Education

In Focus World Conference on Higher Education closes with an appeal for investment and cooperation
“At no time in history has it been more important to invest in higher education as a major force in building an inclusive and diverse knowledge society and to advance research, innovation and creativity,” says the final communiqué, adopted at the end of the World Conference on Higher Education that gathered over 1,000 participants from around 150 countries at UNESCO Headquarters from 5 to 8 July.

Features World Conference on Higher Education webcast links

NewsHigher education is the doorway to economic recovery 2009-07-05 10:08 pm
Higher Education should not be regarded as a tradable good with the student as customer, she said. “The World Higher Education Conference is regarded with hope by students. We put our trust in UNESCO for an action plan.”

The panel opened with an address by the Chinese Minister of Education Ji Zhou. He described how the unprecedented economic growth in China and its population of 3 billion meant higher education had undergone huge development but was still far from meeting demand.

“Higher Education is not only a tool for economic development but a means of bolstering the confidence of a country and bringing about social change,” he said. “It must also meet the expectations and needs of the people.

Last year six million students enrolled in Chinese universities, a six fold increase on 1998. The country currently has a tertiary student population of 29 million with 260 million pupils at all levels in the education system.

He said the need was to develop world class universities with fair access supported by a transparent and comprehensive entrance system and funding. There had already been great progress with information technology including digital libraries, virtual laboratories and online courses leaving a “profound indelible imprint on higher education.”

The country was eager to share its education and culture. In 2008 180,000 Chinese students went abroad and the country welcomed 170,000 foreign students. The minister also called on UNESCO to help further develop China’s higher education partnership with Africa.

Panellists were asked by the moderator how the economic crisi had affected their organisations had adjusted in relation to higher education. Joy Phumaphi, Vice President of the World Bank, challenged on the fact the bank had not always supported higher education said basic education had been more of a priority but the Bank now had a long list of successful higher education partnerships with China, India and Africa particularly.

She said the key to the crisis was the retooling and reskilling of students and the linking of skills to the labour market.

President of the International Association of Universities Juan Ramon de la Fuente, urged governments not to cut back budgets on education. “Education and higher education must remain a public good and are the doorway to recovery,” he said.

Irene Duncan-Adanusa, Vice-President of Education International which represents 30 million teachers worldwide, said staff suffered inadequate salaries, lack of job security and academic freedom. In many countries and states HED teachers were not allowed to unionise.

“In higher education the most important person is the human being. The crisis is not an excuse to reduce public funding,” she said.

European students’ representative Ligia Deca said:“If you ask what changes we have made as an organisation because of the economic crisis I will say no change. We have always supported public investment, and warned of the risks of systems that rely on loans. This is not an economic crisis, it is a values crisis and higher education is a promoter of values. Higher education ministers should join forces with students to lobby for change.”
NewsGlobal Education Digest: new data reveal a shifting landscape of student mobility 2009-07-06 4:25 pm
Data on student mobility compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics includes the perspective from students’ countries of origin, not only from host countries. (For example, a chart in the GED shows that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest outbound mobility rate, 5.8% in 2007, compared to the world average of 1.8 %.) It presents the most comprehensive global picture of where international students go to study and the fields of study they complete.
NewsUNESCO and Microsoft Announce higher education ICT task force 2009-07-07 11:00 am
“Through the creation of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT we will help mobilize critical strategic resources to better assist ministries of education worldwide.”

The current economic downturn combined with rising demand for higher education places governments under enormous pressure to fund enhancements in higher education and support programs needed to train the next generation of work forces with the new skills necessary for economic recovery. Under the umbrella of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT and through the Microsoft Education Alliance, Microsoft will provide a tailored package of resources for short-term higher education enhancements, including curriculum, training and affordable access to collaboration and development software.

“We believe that technology has a vital role to play in building up 21st-century skills, broadening access to education and personalizing the learning experience to adapt teaching to the unique needs of each learner,” said Michael Golden, corporate vice president, Education Products Group at Microsoft. “This program makes technology resources more accessible than ever before to governments and students across the world. We will continue to support UNESCO and our newly formed UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT in every way we can.”

Additional information about the Microsoft resources available can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/education/ELF09.aspx.
NewsAcademia must consolidate its social responsibility role 2009-07-07 3:00 pm
The round table, held during the World Conference on Higher Education, explored the ways in which higher education could capitalise on its role as social developer to promote peace, freedom of expression and sustainable development.

In his opening address Pierre Sané, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Social and Human Sciences, said it was essential to see higher education in the context of the twin crises of the 21st century: severe poverty and political repression on the one hand, affecting millions of people and environmental catastrophes of historic proportions on the other.

“It is the job of the university to provide human capital for society and protect freedom of thought, opinion and expression,” he said.

He believed the other function of academia was to “speak truth to power.” Academics were often absent from public debate when in reality they were crucial for social transformation.

“It is good to remember that universities are already agents of social responsibility but can do more,” Professor Janyne Hodder said. “Universities are not ivory towers or the only experts or the handmaidens of other agencies but must remain in interactive dialogue with society.”

Her concrete proposals included creating awards and a new ranking for socially responsible universities, increased and more relevant student exchanges so that, for example, someone studying global warming could witness its effects firsthand on an island like the Bahamas, and support networks for staff.

Speakers also drew attention to persistent inequalities of access. In Australia the higher education system had been reformed in 2007 but still had not reached poorer, indigenous and rural people, said Denise Bradley, Emeritus Professor and former vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Australia.

She said it was the job of universities to be both competitive and fair and to intervene in the cycle of social disadvantage.

Axel Didriksson, Mexican Secretary of Education, said that in order to improve access and relevance universities needed to make drastic changes in curricula and teaching and learning processes and be open to introducing more cross-cutting study subjects.

Countries emerging from years of conflict had lost faith in the power of academia, said David Francis, Director of the Africa Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Bradford

“In my country, Sierra Leone, a market woman said to me ‘If university is so important how come we have this terrible and bloody civil war?’ Peace is the most important currency in post conflict situations. Without peace there is no security, no sustainable development, no change.”

He said people were clamouring for universities for have a more visible, long-term engagement with the community but so far in Africa they had not invested sufficiently in peace education.

Fadia Kiwan, Professor at St Joseph’s University, Beirut, Lebanon, said market forces and the mission to meet social expectations need not be in opposition.

“Intellectuals must be the conscience of a society,” she said. “They must be a fifth estate which helps to civilise our times.”

However, universalizing access was not a guarantee of quality. She said there was an equal danger in creating false hopes through low quality education and training which could lead to disappointment and radicalization.

Rounding up the event, Ramu Damodaran from UNDP highlighted an existing initiative working in the field of social responsibility. The UN’s Academic Impact initiative aligns higher education institutes with the UN under ten universally accepted principles.

He said the academic community had the potential to become a fourth UN after governments, the secretariat and NGOs.

“There is no academic discipline which is so esoteric or abstruse that it cannot have a larger sense of global purpose,” he said.
NewsAfrica round table stresses cooperation, governance and academic freedom 2009-07-09 8:00 am
The importance of cooperation and partnership was repeatedly stressed. Sang Heon Um, Deputy Minister for Academic Research Policy in the Republic of Korea quoted an African proverb: “if you want to go first, go alone; if you want to go fast, go together.” Korea, he said, was a good model as well as a good partner for Africa as a country with few natural resources which formerly depended heavily on overseas funding. Strategic investment in education largely accounts for the country’s economic success.. Warm applause greeted his proposal to enlarge cooperation with African countries in higher education.
NewsWill ICTs make the traditional university obsolete? 2009-07-09 8:00 am
“A business as usual attitude to the provision of higher education will no longer do as demand rises along with question of equity, affordability and relevance,” said UNESCO’s Assistant-Director General, Communication and Information Abdul Waheed Khan opening the session. “The conventional system alone cannot meet the challenges. We must ask the questions; will present day universities become the dinosaurs of tomorrow? Will there be profound changes in learning content? What is the role of students and staff and how will we ensure quality and sustainability on the Internet?”
NewsThe Director-General urges G8 leaders to increase investment in education 2009-07-09 10:31 am
In his letter of 18 June 2009 to all G8 Heads of State and Government, the Director-General underlined that a majority of countries look towards the leading industrialized powers to restore confidence and set the foundations for a more inclusive and sustainable economic recovery. Mr Matsuura recalled that in April 2009, G20 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and recognized the importance of investing in education and training.
NewsNew models of learning open up ‘untold research opportunities.’ 2009-07-09 12:29 pm
“Research and scholarship have been inexorably altered and revolutionised by technology but academics have paid insufficient attention to upgrading their skills,” said Brenda Gourley, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University in the UK and President of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, speaking on the panel, Beyond Talk: What Action for Higher Education and Research at the World Conference on Higher Education.
NewsA day in the life of an African student 2009-07-09 1:00 pm
“You wake up in your student hostel thinking of what to eat. You are sharing a 4m2 room with seven others, who sleep on mattresses or even on the bare floor. There is not even a table to study at. Some campuses don’t have student hostels but rent out small rooms where the conditions are much the same.

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