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World Conference on Higher Education closes with an appeal for investment and cooperation

"At no time in history has it been more important to invest in higher education as a major force in building an inclusive and diverse knowledge society and to advance research, innovation and creativity," says the final communiqué, adopted at the end of the World Conference on Higher Education that gathered over 1,000 participants from around 150 countries at UNESCO Headquarters over four days.

Ministers, university rectors, faculty, students and key representatives of the private sector as well as regional and multilateral institutions debated a wide range of issues including the impact of globalization on higher education, social responsibility, academic freedom, research and financing.

"Against a fast-changing and complex landscape, we have defined future directions because we fundamentally share a common vision of higher education’s ethical and strategic responsibilities in today’s global society," said UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, affirming that the Organization would "continue to be a strong voice for higher education."

The communiqué stresses that "higher education must pursue the goals of equity, relevance and quality simultaneously", underlining the importance of regulatory and quality assurance mechanisms and the need to enhance "the attractiveness of the academic career." It notes that information and communications technologies should be more fully integrated throughout higher education to meet increasing student demand and share the results of scientific research.

Reflecting the Conference’s special focus on the revitalization of higher education in Africa, the communiqué calls for differentiated approaches to meet rapidly increasing demand; more attention to areas of expertise such as agriculture, the environment and natural resource extraction; and the mobilization of private financing.

The communiqué emphasizes the need for strengthened regional cooperation in areas ranging from the recognition of qualifications, quality assurance, governance, research and innovation. It highlights the importance of establishing regional higher education and research areas.

During the conference, several countries including Brazil, China and the Republic of Korea expressed their commitment to strengthen higher education in Africa while private sector partners voiced their interest in supporting educational expansion and excellence across Africa and the developing world.

Drawing attention to the global teacher shortage, the Communiqué calls for higher education "to scale up pre-service and in-service teacher training with curricula that equip teachers to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills they need in the 21 st century.

Summing up the World Conference, general rapporteur Suzy Halmi noted that "the high degree of participatin of ministers and political decision makers demonstrates awareness of the importance of higher education in building knowledge-based societies."


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