Global Forum on Quality Assurance, Accreditation and
the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education: Information Note
- Context
- The Mission
- The Modalities
- The Partners
- Launch Meeting
- Administration

Context: liberalization of trade in higher education services
The initiative to establish a Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications sprang from an Expert Meeting organized in Paris (10 - 11 September 2001).

The Forum was launched as part of UNESCO's mission "to respond to emerging ethical challenges and dilemmas as a result of globalization" and as a reaction to growing demands by the international community that UNESCO takes a more proactive role related to the impact of globalization on higher education, in particular to the prospective liberalization of trade in educational services through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) established under the WTO.

In the heated debates worldwide there is a growing polarization between the education and the trade communities. Some of the stakeholders of higher education, the teachers' unions and the students being the most vocal, followed by institutions, consider that education is not a tradable commodity, and that higher education should remain a public good and a public responsibility. GATS is perceived as a threat to national sovereignty and culture and as a serious attack on the core values of the university and the quality of teaching. Trade promoters, on the other hand, try to point to its benefits - 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.

UNESCO is well positioned to overcome this conflict and provide some common ground, primarily by providing a platform for dialogue. It has its normative instruments as a legal framework for action. Reinforcing, revising and updating the existing conventions on the recognition of studies, for instance, could provide an international qualifications framework - relevant in the context of the GATS debates - and reinforcing links between recognition of qualifications and quality assurance and accreditation networks could constitute a more acceptable approach to overcoming obstacles in transborder mobility and promoting non-profit internationalization and 'fair trade', in the interest of the learners.

back to top

Global Forum: The mission
The mission of the Global Forum is to provide a platform for dialogue by linking existing frameworks dealing with international issues of quality accreditation and the recognition of qualifications, and develop an international policy framework for dealing with the impact of globalization and transborder higher education providers, reconciling the interests of national governments, the traditional public higher education sector, for-profit providers and the needs of students and the general public interest.

back to top

Global Forum: The modalities
The Global Forum will build on and further enhance the activities underway in the framework of the existing regional conventions on the recognition of degrees and studies in higher education. The possibility of revising and amending the conventions will also be considered so that they take into account the new developments related to globalization, trade and higher education and news challenges posed by borderless education. (the Lisbon Recognition Convention for Europe and the Arusha Convention for Africa under revision already provide good models in this direction).

back to top

Global Forum: The Partners
In addition to the regional committees for the application of the Conventions, the partners of the Global Forum will involve as partners the major intergovernmental organizations active in this field:

- The World Bank (cf. new strategy "Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education", May 2002);
- The OECD (cf. first Forum on Trade in Educational Services, Washington 23-24 May 2002)
- The ILO (cf. new World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, first meeting 25 March 2002)

Partners will include regional organizations such as the Council of Europe and the European Commission, representatives of a number of Member States, professional organizations and networks, experts, representatives of major stakeholders in higher education (institutions, teachers, students, private business).

back to top

Launch Meeting
The 1st Global Forum Meeting will be held 17-18 October 2002 at UNESCO Paris. The agenda of this Global Forum Meeting will concentrate on:

- Higher education, globalization and trade in educational services: thematic debate;
- Feasibility of a code of good/ethical practice on quality assurance, accreditation and the recognition of qualifications; and
- Information sharing.

back to top

The activities of the Global Forum are administered by the Division of Higher Education, programme specialist responsible: Ms. Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic, Chief, Section for Access, Mobility and Quality Assurance.

back to top

Global Forum Intro| Info Note |Activities| Trade in HE and GATS Basics