UNIVERSITY WORLD NEWS: UNESCO chief plots pact on global recognition of degrees

Career College Central Summary:

  • UNESCO’s section for higher education will seek approval this year for a plan to move forward on a global convention or pact that would acknowledge the dramatic changes taking place in the sector today and promote cross-border cooperation beyond the regional level, a top UNESCO official said last Thursday. 
  • “The world is moving toward a far more global higher education community, hence the need to build a more equitable and more transparent higher education sector worldwide,” said Paulina González-Pose, chief of UNESCO’s higher education section. If approved, the plan would promote deeper levels of collaboration and provide a frame for sharing good practices.
  • Speaking to the annual meeting of an international quality assurance organisation in Washington, González-Pose said a confluence of factors, including globalisation, changing migration patterns, advanced technology and the growing diversification of education providers, inspired UNESCO to attempt to develop a global convention on the recognition of qualifications that would parallel those of existing regional conventions. 
  • Officials from 34 countries, representing all regions, attended the meeting convened by the CHEA International Quality Group, or CIQG.
  • Such a convention would depart from traditional notions of what constitutes a university education. Of particular relevance is the democratisation and massification of higher education in developing countries, which has led to rising demand among students who will require a different approach than more traditional practices based on elitist higher education systems of the past.
  • Proposal in November
  • Plans for a global instrument have been in the works since November 2011. González-Pose is scheduled to propose the plan for a global convention to UNESCO board members in November this year, at which time “we will get the go-ahead or [be told to] stop. We don’t know”.
  • UNESCO’s General Conference has already approved a preliminary proposal on the condition that whatever normative instrument is designed must be articulated with the regional conventions.
  • While regional conventions have existed for decades, only those in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and Africa regions have been updated in recent years, she said, while regional conventions for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Arab states have not been revised. One challenge will be how to revitalise those regions that are less active.
  • “There’s relatively little information on why some regional conventions are functioning and others are not,” González-Pose said, adding that a comparative analysis of existing regional conventions would provide a clearer view of key challenges. 
  • Member states to approve
  • UNESCO member states also must give the plan a green light. If a global convention is approved, UNESCO’s role will be to provide guidance. “We cannot dictate but we hope to be able to provide intellectual leadership… in a forward-looking manner,” González-Pose said.
  • In an interview with University World News, González-Pose acknowledged that the concept of a global convention is “a little bit revolutionary”, suggesting that some stakeholders may have reservations. But, she said, standing still is not an option. “Higher education is changing, and people talk and talk about it. But we have to do something.”
  • González-Pose listed a number of trends that will have implications for how a global recognition system for diplomas and degrees would work. 
  • In addition to the diversification of the student population, there’s a diversity of providers, including for-profit colleges and online courses and degrees. Meanwhile, higher education institutions are increasingly defining their missions and values in global terms.

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