United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture
10 October 2002
First Global Forum on
International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the
Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education
“Globalization and Higher Education”
BACKGROUND DISCUSSION DOCUMENT
17 - 18 October 2002
Division of Higher Education
Section for Access, Mobility and Quality Assurance
BACKGROUND DISCUSSION DOCUMENT
The purpose of this paper is to serve as background to the discussions of the First Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education. The objective of this meeting (Category VI, Article 56, Manual of the General Conference, 2002) is to propose to the Director-General of UNESCO an Action Plan for implementation in the 2004-2005 biennium currently under preparation.
The paper begins by presenting the context of debates on globalization and higher education worldwide that refer to its most frequent manifestations: different forms of borderless education; open and distance learning/virtual universities; and trade in educational services, an issue of increased attention and growing concern.
It presents some of the implications of these new developments for higher education as perceived by major stakeholders in higher education (teachers, institutions, scholars, students) and highlights different standpoints.
In an effort to determine a UNESCO approach to these issues, it evokes the stipulations of UNESCO basic texts, declarations and resolutions and presents the results of regional case studies from Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
The paper further analyzes the similarities and differences between the international agreements (conventions) on the recognition of qualifications and studies in higher education, under the auspices of UNESCO, and the General Agreement on Trade in Services, under the World Trade Organization (WTO) as they relate to higher education. It proposes the conventions either as an alternative to or complementary to the commitments on higher education under GATS, as a conscious choice of States Parties to both international agreements.
Finally, it puts forward a possible UNESCO Agenda for Trans-Border Higher Education for 2004-2005, consisting of five basic elements, to be implemented through the existing mechanisms of the Regional/Intergovernmental Committees in place for the six Conventions on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education and reviewed by regular meetings of the Global Forum.
In conclusion, the paper underlines the notions of fair trade and internationalization as the overarching principles that should underpin both UNESCO‟s agenda at international level
and national efforts in Member States. This agenda, at both systemic and institutional level, can serve as basis for developing regulatory frameworks that can respond to the multiple facets of globalization, through an inclusive approach of developed and developing countries as equal partners in the process. The Global Forum, bringing 19/05/2010 1
together public and private, profit and not-for profit providers of higher education around a common agenda has the challenge to foster such an approach.
Globalization in higher education – reflected in the growth of new information
technologies, the prospective liberalization of trade in educational services and the emergence of various forms of borderless education - is at the heart of heated debates worldwide. These developments pose new challenges at a time when nation-states are no longer the sole providers of higher education. Such challenges not only address issues of access, equity, intellectual property, and quality but also those of national sovereignty and cultural diversity. A further major concern is that transborder higher education providers and trade in education will seriously affect the already declining funding provided by state budgets to higher education sectors, thereby affecting weaker and poorer nations and benefiting the more prosperous ones.
The phenomenon of trans-border and commercial education is not new. In the seventies, concerns were voiced about the commercial aspects of correspondence education and a Code of Good Practice was elaborated by UNESCO and other partners in response. Similarly, commercial aspects of the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma ere questioned in the early 1990s. Yet, this qualification, as a truly transnational one, has become a standard for quality widely accepted around the world and served as model to the Recommendation on International Access Qualifications adopted as a subsidiary document to the Lisbon Recognition Convention in 1999. The increasing numbers of international students worldwide represent important sources of income to the host countries and are also elements of trade in higher education.
The issue, however, has gained new momentum with the establishment of the General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1995 (GATS) in the framework of the World Trade Organization, (WTO). The past academic year (2001-2002) was particularly rich in events: conferences, seminars, articles in specialized publications and journals at an accelerated pace addressed issues of GATS, trade in services, threats posed to developing countries and to the notion of public good. Awareness of the debate increased in the academic community worldwide as the deadline of the GATS negotiations of 30 June 2002 drew closer, offering countries the opportunity to open their markets in service areas, including higher education.
There is a great polarization of views and intense discussions on this topic. Major traditional stakeholders in higher education, institutions, teachers‟ unions, students, scholars fiercely oppose higher education being treated as a commodity and urge their governments not to make commitments in higher education in the context of the GATS. Others, sometimes from the very same groupings advocate that trade is happening already and that it has certain benefits and opportunities, on condition that it is handled and monitored correctly.
This strong polarization of views between contesters and promoters of trade in
educational services is in fact a reflection of the world divide on globalization,
symbolized by the two world conferences, the 1999 Davos World Economic Forum and
the Porto Alegre 2002 World Social Forum.
To position itself on the issue of globalization, the United Nations proposed the Global 1Compact, an initiative of the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Launched in July 2001, at
a high-level conference in UN Headquarters in New York, with the basic assumption that
governments cannot do it all by themselves, the Global Compact is conceived as a forum
for dialogue between business, labour and civil society organizations to build a more
robust global community. It is a value-based platform designed to promote institutional
learning, utilizing the power of transparency and dialogue to identify and disseminate
good practices based on universal principles.
In developing its own policy framework related to higher education and globalization,
UNESCO will strive to position itself within this UN framework and to develop an
agenda complementary to that of the Global Compact.
2What are the implications of globalization and trade in educational services?
Does the WTO pose a severe threat to the traditional ideals of the university? Does trade
in educational services represent a revolution that has the potential to profoundly change
our basic understanding of the role of the university? Among academic circles, there is a
firm conviction that the implications are immense and as yet little discussed or 3understood.
This perception of threat and basically lack of information and understanding is inherent
in a number of declarations and statements by major stakeholders in higher education: 4teachers unions (Education International), higher education institutions through their
associations in Europe, Canada and the United States, in the form of a Joint Declaration 56on Higher Education and GATS, the National Union of Students in Europe (ESIB), all
of whom denounce as unacceptable the notion of education being a tradeable commodity.
While fully understanding the benefits of internationalization, they strongly support the
notion of education remaining a public good and urge states not to engage in further
negotiations under the WTO but to respect related agreements concluded in other forums,
such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
This debate is gradually invading developing countries and countries in transition. They
are particularly exposed to becoming unregulated markets for higher education exporters
because of insufficient government attention to regulation due to political and governance 7instability. There is fear that the decreasing state funding for higher education will
decrease even further and that students will be menaced by private and expensive
providers that will favour the rich and further affect the poor. At the centre of the debate,
the issue of quality assurance is critical to safeguard education seekers in importing
countries. The value of the qualifications offered and their acceptance by the labour market add additional fears. The major policy issue remains: how can the new providers contribute to the development agenda of a developing country?
In addition to the Joint Declaration on Higher Education and GATS adopted by the European and North American University Associations, in September 2001, the Latin American academics expressed critical opinions at regional meetings: two in Porto Alegre, Brazil and one in Lima, Peru. The III Summit of Iberian and Latin American Universities in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in April 2002 adopted a declaration by which they call upon their respective governments not to subscribe any commitment on this issue within the WTO. The participants invite their governments to respect the Declaration of the World Conference on Higher Education and to adhere to the agreements adopted under UNESCO.
Is the public good the sole responsibility of public institutions or, as many advocate, can the social responsibility be shared by public and private providers? Different examples demonstrate that transborder providers may, if certain conditions are met, enhance the capacity to meet unmet demand for higher education in countries with decreasing state budgets. In some countries, such as Malaysia, the import of higher education is conducted within a framework of conscious choice by governments and planned regulatory frameworks exist.
Trade promoters, in addition, point to the benefits of trade in higher education –
competition, motivation for traditional institutions to innovate, establishment of professional networks, providing enhanced opportunities for access to higher education etc. Preserving the quality of higher education and protecting/empowering the learner become key issues in response to this phenomenon.
Whether the consequences of the GATS negotiations will dramatically affect the world of higher education, especially in developing countries, or remain of marginal outreach, significant trade in higher educational services is happening already. OECD figures point to the fact that trade in higher education services amounted to 30 billion US Dollars in 1999, equivalent to 3% of total services traded in OECD countries. Education Ministers in the OECD framework have asked for the whole education community to be more involved if progress is to be made in the liberalization of trade in educational services.
Large markets are opening up to trade in education. China as the most populous country in the world and as one of the world‟s largest economies has already 36% of higher education students enrolled in private institutions, and is becoming a popular destination for foreign investment and is opening up its market to education. National regulation is being changed accordingly.
Big exporters of higher education, like Australia, have introduced a new regulatory framework for foreign providers, “National Protocols for Higher Education Approval
Processes” (March 2000), to protect their own students. A new Quality Assurance Agency for Off-Shore Higher Education Provision has also been established.
Academic debates in the United Kingdom, another exporting country, call for engaging
more fully in socio-cultural roles of higher education, such as enhancing intercultural
understanding, providing access to higher education for the less privileged or helping to 8rebuild higher education systems shattered by military and political upheavals.
New initiatives in the United States, such as the MIT Open Courseware, which will
provide on-line access to 100 of its courses free of charge as of 1 September 2002,
represent positive examples of globalization and sharing of knowledge.
Japan, the first non-Anglophone country and non-exporting country to present its 9proposal to the WTO Council of Trade in Services (March 2002), stresses the
importance of maintaining and improving the quality of education and research activities;
of protecting the consumer; of measures to ensure international equivalence of degrees, 10and calls for collaborative research networks and information exchange.
UNESCO’s Starting Position
UNESCO‟s starting position in deliberations on globalization and higher education is based on its own basic texts and normative instruments, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, the six goals of the Dakar Framework of Action and the Declaration of
the World Conference on Higher Education.
The Dakar Framework for Action is to ensure that by 2015 all children have access to
free and compulsory education; that learning needs of all young people and adults are met
through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes. In addition,
improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence is at the centre
of the Dakar follow-up.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its Article 26 (1) underlines higher
education as a human right and states that “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.
The 5,000 participants from 182 states with 30 Ministers of Education that attended the
1998 World Conference on Higher Education agreed that:
“Higher education should be considered as a public service. While diversified
sources of funding, private and public, are necessary, public support for higher
education and research remains essential to ensure a balanced achievement of its
educational and social missions.”
Finally, UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy (2002-2007) places a focus on challenges
posed by globalization:
“A new challenge today is to build consensus on newly required norms and
principles to respond to emerging ethical challenges and dilemmas as a result of
globalization. (…) The growing commercialisation of many spheres previously
considered as public goods, such as education, culture and information,
jeopardizes weaker, economically less powerful mechanisms of control and
demands new approaches to the protection of the rights of the individual. Overall
there is a need to agree on universally accepted mechanisms to ensure equitable
participation in and management of globalization. There are currently very few
rules of the game and unless universally agreed frameworks can be defined, the
poor and the weak will continue to be denied the benefits of globalization.
Globalization must be made to work for all.”
UNESCO‟s challenge is to provide a structured agenda for these developments and offer
an international policy framework for dealing with globalization and higher education,
reconciling the interests of national governments, the traditional public higher education 11sector, for-profit providers and the needs of students and the general public interest.
To get a better insight into recent regional developments and debates on new providers
and the liberalization of trade in higher education, case studies were elaborated under the
supervision of UNESCO Offices in Beirut, Bangkok, and Dakar and the UNESCO
Institute for Higher Education IESALC in Caracas, Venezuela. (see document ED-
2002/HED/AMQ/GF.1/03: Summary of Case Studies).
Although the case studies demonstrate a great diversity of views and approaches, some
common elements can be drawn.
All regions report on the prevalence of new providers of higher education in their region:
IT academies, twinning arrangements, corporate universities, for-profit providers,
distance education, including virtual education. A general remark, however, is that it is
difficult to provide systematic information on new providers as sources of information
are not centralized.
The majority of the case studies point to some benefits of new providers, such as the fact
that they are perceived as filling a need to provide training opportunities, flexibility in the
curriculum development which respond to the needs of the industry (Kenya); enhancing
the range of learning opportunities, supporting the innovation of higher education,
providing beneficial competition, fostering the widespread of new technologies (Arab
States); enhancing opportunities for access to higher education (China, India, Kazakhstan,
Malaysia). The Indian example further states that in spite of initial apprehensions to new
providers, they are now accepted both by the public and the labour market. In this
country, they are not looked upon as a threat to national development issues and seem to
fill the gap for relevance in the traditional system of education.
The same case studies, however, also point to the dangers posed by new providers;
operating without appropriate government supervision and providing low quality
educational services while aiming at maximum profit, undermining the equality of access to higher education; lack of protection of students, including issues surrounding the recognition of qualifications.
The responses related to trade in higher education services differ. Some case studies report consultations between relevant ministries (Kenya, Malaysia. India) and a generally positive attitude towards liberalizing trade, seeing benefits from exporting higher education themselves (Kenya, India). As stated in the Indian case study, pragmatic approaches are emerging in making commitments in higher education with suitable saving clauses.
The Latin American case study states that with or without GATS, trade in education is likely to grow in coming years and the international academic community will have to face the reality that it no longer holds the monopoly on decisions in the area of education.
All case studies agree on the need for an international framework for quality assurance and accreditation as a flexible mechanism with a developmental aspect. Similarly, there is a fairly high degree of convergence on the usefulness of an international code of good/ethical practice related to new providers.
Although the case studies offer a small sample survey, a more comprehensive consultation could be envisaged as part of the Global Forum follow-up activities that could provide empirical evidence on regional developments, needs and approaches. This in turn could inspire a more thorough analysis of policy issues related to new providers and trade in higher education.
Conventions on the Recognition of Qualifications and GATS
What are the conventions that exist outside trade agreements, mentioned in the Declarations cited above? In which way are they similar or different from GATS? Is there any degree of complementarily between the two, so as to better involve the higher education community and appease some of the tensions, and make „globalization work 12for all‟?
Could the conventions constitute an alternative legal framework to GATS in the field of higher education?
Conventions on the mutual, transborder recognition of degrees in higher education between ratifying countries worldwide date from the 1960s when these conventions were initiated by UNESCO. Similar conventions on equivalence of diplomas and degrees, dating from the 1950s exist the Council of Europe framework. Six normative instruments to regulate mutual recognition of higher education studies and degrees were adopted during the 1970s and the early 1980s, starting with the regional convention on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean (June 1975), and followed over the next ten years by four similar conventions covering all regions of the world – the Arab States (1978), Europe (1979),
Africa (1981), Asia and the Pacific (1983). An international convention on the recognition of studies, diplomas and degrees in higher education in the Arab and European states bordering the Mediterranean (the Mediterranean Convention) was adopted in December 1976 and remained the only one to address inter-regional co-operation. The youngest Convention, the 1997 Lisbon Recognition Convention for the Europe Region, as a joint document of the Council of Europe and UNESCO, a first of its kind, will gradually replace the other existing European conventions. It represented a significant landmark in recognition practices in Europe and is at the heart of subsequent 13development such as the Bologna Process.
The UNESCO Conventions are legally binding instruments which to date have been ratified by over 100 member states from all regions of the world. If one looks at the text of these conventions, similar to GATS, their main objectives are to promote international co-operation in higher education and to reduce obstacles to the mobility of teachers and students by a mutual recognition of degrees and qualifications between the countries that have ratified them. As part of the implementation process, a regular reporting is in place on „progress made and obstacles encountered‟.
Unlike GATS however, these conventions ultimately contribute to „preserving and strengthening the cultural identity and diversity of their peoples, respecting the specific character of their educational systems (Arusha Convention, Africa, 1981). They acknowledge that „the right to education is a human right and that higher education (…) represents an exceptionally rich cultural and scientific asset for both individuals and society‟ (Lisbon Recognition Convention, Europe, 1997). The latter quotation derives from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in its Article 26 (1) underlines higher education as a human right and states that “higher education shall be equally 14accessible to all on the basis of merit”.
Both the Conventions and the GATS are administered by intergovernmental
organizations of worldwide coverage. UNESCO is the specialized agency of the United Nations for education, science, culture and communication, with 188 member states. WTO, is the more recently established world trade organization, with 144 member states.
The basic difference, however, lies in the purpose of concluding these international agreements. While the conventions are concluded for the purpose of advancing internationalization, the GATS promotes higher education trade liberalization for purposes of economic profit.
At present, the conventions refer to the mutual recognition, by States parties, of qualifications issued by institutions part of the educational system of a Member State. Using the terminology of the GATS, the UNESCO Conventions have as an objective „removing barriers‟ to the mobility of students and teachers. In that sense they are
identical to and already cover the GATS modes of supply 2 (Consumption Abroad) and 4 (Presence of Natural Persons).
Conventions have, as implementation mechanisms, regional committees as statutory
bodies that meet at regular intervals, every two years. One of their functions is to
“undertake necessary studies required to adapt the objectives of (this) Convention in
accordance with the evolving requirement of social, cultural and economic development 15in the Contracting States”.
As a response to the growing globalization in higher education, the Conventions could be
invited to adapt to these new requirements by introducing stipulations to deal with the
hitherto not yet covered modes of supply according to GATS, namely 1 (Cross Border
Supply) and 3 (Commercial Presence).
In fact, two of the six existing Conventions have already taken steps in this direction,
regardless of GATS:
? The 1997 Lisbon Recognition Convention (European Region) adopted a Code of
Good Practice for Transnational Education (Riga, June 2001). The Code puts
forward eleven principles on TNE arrangements that relate to academic quality
and standards; policy and the mission statement of TNE institutions; information
to be provided by TNE institutions; awareness of cultural context; qualifications
of staff; and admission of students.
? The 1981 Arusha Convention (Africa Region) is currently being revised to
address new needs posed by assessing the qualifications earned through distance
education. A study prepared as basis for the revision process, underlines the need
to establish quality assurance mechanisms specific to the needs of open and
distance learning (ODL), to assure the credibility of the learning outcomes of
ODL and ease the transfer of credits within and between national borders. Trust
and credibility are key to this process.
It could therefore be argued that extending this revision/amendment to the other four
conventions in Asia and the Pacific, Arab States, Latin America and the Caribbean and
the Mediterranean, could provide better use of an existing legal framework already in
place. This could constitute a solid regulatory framework for the recognition of
qualifications and quality assurance as a response to the prospective liberalization of
trade in higher education and serve for better informed decision making by education
communities at national level.
In fact, WTO members are invited in the text of the GATS to cooperate with relevant
intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, in Article VII Recognition:
For the purposes of the fulfillment, in whole or in part, of its standards or criteria
for the authorization, licensing or certification of services suppliers, and subject to
the requirements of paragraph 3, a Member may recognize the education or
experience obtained, requirements met, or licenses or certifications granted in a
particular country. Such recognition, which may be achieved through