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
Forum: The modalities
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
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
- The World Bank (cf. new strategy "Constructing Knowledge
Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education", May
- 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).
The 1st Global Forum Meeting will be held 17-18 October 2002
at UNESCO Paris. The agenda of this Global Forum Meeting will
- Higher education, globalization and trade in educational services:
- Feasibility of a code of good/ethical practice on quality
assurance, accreditation and the recognition of qualifications;
- Information sharing.
back to top
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
Info Note |Activities|
in HE and GATS Basics