Paris, 10-11 September 2001
Remarks (Video) by John Daniel
Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
C'est un grand plaisir de vous souhaiter la bienvenue, au
nom de l'UNESCO, á cette rencontre de spécialistes
que nous avons convoquée afin de contribuer à
l'évolution de notre pensée sur le développment
de l'enseignement supérieur face à la mondialisation.
Je vous sais gré d'avoir accepté de vous joindre
à nous pour ces deux journées de discussion.
is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this Expert Meeting
and to thank you warmly for agreeing to take part. I must
apologise for bidding you welcome by video rather than in
person. Unfortunately September is a very busy month in the
Education sector at UNESCO and today I have two particularly
regrettable diary conflicts.
top priority for UNESCO over the coming years is to support
the worldwide programme of action aimed at achieving Education
for All. This programme was agreed at the World Forum held
in Dakar, Senegal last year.
and tomorrow I am chairing a Working Group on Education for
All made up of governmental representatives, NGOs and other
international agencies. Its task is to make an annual assessment
of progress towards Education for All and to recommend any
revisions to the strategy and action plan that may prove necessary.
fear that if I try to divide my time between that meeting
and this one I will end up doing justice to neither, so I
am going to leave you in the capable hands of Mr Seddoh and
my UNESCO colleagues. I should also note in passing another
clash of dates. Today is International Literacy Day and we
shall be holding an event, here at UNESCO to mark that annual
are, of course, direct linkages between UNESCO's preoccupation
with Literacy and Education for All and your work on higher
education. The fundamental aim of the Education for All programme
is to put an end to the shameful situation whereby over 200
million of the world's children do not get a basic education.
Equally scandalous are the figures for adult illiteracy. The
800 million adult illiterates, one in four of the adult population
of our planet, are also a target for action.
the extent that the global community succeeds in providing
Education for All it will increase even further the demand
for higher education, which is already estimated to reach
some 150 million students by the year 2020. The basic aim
of this expert meeting is to help ensure that these people
can study within an institutional framework that gives due
recognition to their achievements and reduces to a minimum
the obstacles to study.
purpose of my opening remarks, beyond welcoming you and stressing
the importance that UNESCO attaches to this meeting, is to
comment on the context and purpose of this work. As context
I simply quote from UNESCO's strategy document for the next
six year period which says:
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 globalisation. (
) The growing
commercialisation of many spheres previously considered as
public goods, such as education, culture and information,
jeopardises 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 globalisation. 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 globalisation. Globalisation must be
made to work for all.
sorry if that is a bit wordy, which has tended to be UNESCO's
style, but you get the idea and you can key that statement
to the excellent introductory paper that Professor Dirke Van
Damme has produced for us.
that is the general issue, what is UNESCO's role? The same
document says we are to be:
laboratory of ideas; a standard-setter; a clearinghouse; a
capacity-builder in Member States and a catalyst for international
meeting involves several of these functions. An international
market in higher education is developing and some are looking
to UNESCO as a forum for discussion of these issues, and notably
for the promotion of higher education as a public good, especially
in developing countries and countries in transition.
stressing our role as a forum for discussion I want to emphasise
at the outset that UNESCO has no ambitions to become an international
accrediting body for higher education. That would be entirely
Van Damme points out that one of the key challenges in attempts
to address accreditation internationally is legitimacy. Consortia
of universities and consortia of private companies can each
be accused of lacking either objectivity or universality.
In my view a multi-governmental body like UNESCO would have
insuperable problems of both legitimacy and effectiveness
if it became a vehicle for making judgements about institutions
in member states.
fact I do not expect this meeting to spend much time on the
issue of an international accrediting body. As Professor Van
Damme also notes, there are plenty of knotty issues before
you get to that. Indeed, one of your challenges, it seems
to me, is to develop a staged work plan that addresses soluble
problems in a sequential manner.
this area, more than most, it is necessary to proceed in a
deliberate fashion, taking great care to define terms and
clarify one issue before going on to the next. That makes
it sound like a long process and I am sure that it will be
a long process. However, I also believe that, just as in any
form of strategic planning, the process itself, if done well,
can be as important as the final product.
am pleased to observe that much preliminary work on theses
issues has already been done, and many of you have played
key roles in that work. I refer particularly to the studies
of borderless education that have scoped the issues and the
work that has been done in the different regions of the world
to develop conventions on degree recognition and quality assurance.
Those of you who are involved in accreditation and quality
assurance in higher education on a daily basis have also contributed
much to defining the challenges we are trying to address.
is against this background that I encourage you to explore,
for the world as a whole, the international dimensions of
quality assurance, accreditation and the recognition of qualifications.
I hope that you will examine the feasibility of establishing
an international forum for dialogue among the different stakeholders:
nation states; the private sector; traditional and non-traditional
higher education institutions; students, and so on.
expertise and experience that you bring together will allow
for a broad exchange of views, combining a global perspective
with specific regional and national concerns.
will be interested to know that there is a precedent for this
type of work, although without the scale and scope of the
challenge that globalisation presents to us today.
in 1970, partly as a result of an article by Jessica Mitford
in The Atlantic Monthly, there was widespread international
concern about the practices of some of the commercial providers
of correspondence education. At the time UNESCO got involved,
along with others, in developing guidelines of good practice.
those days the main focus was the protection of consumers,
that is to say students, from unscrupulous providers and practices.
That remains a major concern as education globalises today,
although we also have to be concerned with the protection
of society as a whole from the issuing of qualifications that
are not based on the knowledge and skills that they purport
am grateful to Professor Van Damme for his excellent paper,
which lays out the issues in a very stimulating way and will,
I am sure provoke some lively discussion.
myself recognise many of the issues he raises from my own
previous experience. For example, I hold degrees and diplomas
from universities in three countries - or four jurisdictions
if you count the provinces of Canada separately - so I was
an example of globalisation in education before the word was
in my last job at the UK Open University we had some 30,000
students outside the UK which meant that issues of degree
recognition and cultural appropriateness were my daily bread.
during my time at the Open University we were asked to take
over a national accrediting body, the Council for National
Academic Awards or CNAA, which became Open University Validation
Services. That gave me further insights, particularly when
institutions from overseas began to approach us for accreditation.
my recent experience of setting up the United States Open
University has been a particularly rich case study of the
issues that Professor Van Damme has identified. The United
States Open University is a private, not-for-profit provider
of distance education in the USA. In that context it operates
alongside, and competes with, various new for-profit higher
education institutions in that country. However, since the
USOU was set up by the UK Open University, it is very strongly
motivated by the ideal of higher education as a public good.
although the UK Open University has now established itself
at the top of the league tables of quality in higher education
in the UK, it was necessary for the USOU to go through the
American accreditation process since it is an American institution.
In fact the USOU has submitted itself to two American accreditation
processes, one at the national level focused on distance education
and one at the regional level focused on conventional universities.
difference between the two processes has been striking, with
one concentrating on the student experience and the other
focusing on the institutional framework. My USOU colleagues
have found it very enriching, as well as rather demanding,
to take on these two processes. However, it has made me realise
that you can have very different approaches to quality assessment
and accreditation, each valid in its own way.
processes have also made me realise that, when it comes to
trade liberalisation, higher education is not a product like
bananas or cars. Any kind of framework for international trade
requires countries to yield a degree of jurisdiction. Quite
often, of course, those countries which promote liberalisation
most vocally are also the most reluctant to give up any kind
of jurisdiction. This will be a challenge for higher education,
not so much for countries perhaps as for individual institutions.
the end of the day I believe that the individual university
must stand behind the quality of its degrees and awards. This
means that individual universities need to have full confidence
in any international agreements and arrangements to which
they are asked to subscribe. This is another argument for
working on these issues slowly, carefully and deliberately.
are, however, very important issues and I shall be proud if
UNESCO can provide a forum for progressing them at the international
level. I shall of course, be particularly interested in learning
what you think that UNESCO can most usefully do to help so
that we can include it in our work plan for the biennium.
let me once again apologise for not being with you in person.
It is my loss because I would have much enjoyed being part
of your discussions. However, I look forward to catching up
later with your conclusions and to being more directly involved
in the subsequent work.
wish you two productive days in Paris and I thank you for
giving your time to this endeavour. I hand you over to my