First global meeting of ministers and university leaders to address inclusion and mobility in higher education

For the first time in UNESCO’s history, ministers of education and university leaders come together to discuss inclusion and mobility in higher education.

Over 100 ministers and 100 representatives from universities, participating in the UNESCO Chairs programme will convene on 13 November 2019 during UNESCO’s General Conference currently taking place in Paris. They will address some of today’s most pressing challenges in higher education: How can governments and higher education institutions work together to create a more inclusive global campus in the light of rapidly increasing numbers in enrolment and mobility of students? And how can the higher education sector across the world work against increasing inequalities and for the inclusion of marginalized groups into societies?

The higher education landscape is rapidly changing globally, characterized by increasing internationalization, diversification of providers and new modes of learning. Some 220 million students are today enrolled in higher education around the world; a number that has doubled over the past decade and is set to expand, especially in Africa.

However, increased enrolments have not proven to be a reliable indicator for achieving the 2030 Agenda overall goal of “leaving no one behind”, or for ensuring equitable and affordable quality higher education. Institutions face the challenge of providing quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including non-traditional learners and disadvantaged groups such as migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples.

Increased mobility among students

The past decades’ unprecedented increase of enrolment in higher education is also reflected in the mobility of students with the move from an international university to a global campus of learners, faculty and researchers fast becoming a reality. In the decade leading up to 2011, the number of learners choosing to study outside of their home country more than doubled to 4.3 million students – a figure that is conservatively estimated to double again by 2025.

Yet many students still face obstacles in having their qualifications recognized when returning to their home country or moving to a new country. Lack of recognition of qualifications constitutes a major obstacle for accessing further studies or for seeking employment opportunities. Today more than half of students going abroad study outside their home regions.

To respond to this new reality, UNESCO is preparing the adoption of a Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education at its General Conference that started this week. The new Convention aims to facilitate student mobility and improve access to higher education across regions and continents. UNESCO has also launched a Qualifications Passport to facilitate the mobility for refugees with qualifications. The qualifications passport is currently being piloted and will be presented as well.

By convening policy-makers and universities at this unprecedented meeting, UNESCO aims to strengthen political will, international cooperation and capacities in higher education for achieving the 2030 Agenda, and to create understanding of how the Global Convention can facilitate this process.

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