Regional Conference on Higher Education 2008


Regional Conference on Higher Education 2008

The first preparatory conference for the next World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE) was held from 4 to 6 June in Cartagena, Colombia, by the International Institute for Higher Education of UNESCO in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) and the Columbian Ministry of National Education, with the support of the Columbian Association of Universities (ASCUN) and the Andrés Bello Agreement (CAB). In there, participants analysed and discussed the trends and new perspectives that have arisen as a result of social, economic, political and cultural changes in the region and the impact of these trends on higher education. In addition, regional contributions to the WCHE + 10 were formulated.

The main goal was to promote reflection, commitment and action across the board, so that institutional and public Higher Education policies can benefit from the advances of the 21st century. The focus was South-South cooperation. Other goals were to increase the internationalisation of Higher Education institutions in the region and to formulate and coordinate Latin American and Caribbean standpoints for the World Conference on Higher Education 2009.

Themes

The Conference focused on the following key themes 1) The regional and world context

2) The role of Higher Education in the creation of knowledge and innovation

3) Quality, pertinence, relevance and the social commitment of Higher Education Institutions

4) Inclusion and equity

5) Diversification, differentiation and segmentation

6) Regional integration and international cooperation

7) Reforms in Higher Education systems

8) Government and governability in Higher Education institutions

9) Accreditation models for undergraduate and graduate courses

10) The financing of higher education

Background

The first World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE) was held at UNESCO headquarters in 1998. Reports from preparatory regional conferences were taken into account at this event. The regional conference for Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Havana, Cuba, in November 1996. The main topic was “Policies and strategies for the transformation of higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean”. In 2003, a meeting called WCHE+5 was convened in Paris to follow up the WCHE and to discuss progress.

Final Declaration

Some of the ideas in the eight-point Declaration are summarised below. The introduction states that “higher education is a social public good and a universal human right.” 1. Context. In this first point, the Declaration emphasises the need for “the construction of a more prosperous, just and solidarity-based society.”

2. Higher education as a human right and social public good. “Higher education as a social public good is reaffirmed in the easure that access to it is a true right of all citizens.” 3. Coverage and educational and institutional models. “It is essential for higher education to generate institutional structures and academic proposals that guarantee the right to it.” In addition this point states that “higher education must make effective the development of policies for interfacing with the entire educational system”. 4. Social and human values of higher education. In this point, the Declaration supports “striving for equality and social justice”. In addition, it indicates that “higher education must reassert and strengthen the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual character of our countries and region.” 5. Scientific, humanistic and artistic education and comprehensive sustainable development. “Higher education has an indispensable role to play in closing the gaps in science and technology with the currently most developed countries.” The Declaration indicates that “the exhaustion of the predominant development model evident in the clash between human needs, consumption models and the maintenance of an inhabitable planet.” 6. Academic networks. “It is through network-building that the region’s institutions of higher education can unite and share the scientific and cultural potential they possess for analyzing and proposing solutions for strategic problems.” 7. Emigration of highly skilled persons. “A matter requiring the greatest attention is the prevention of highly qualified persons being lost through emigration.” 8. Regional integration and internationalisation. “The creation of a Latin American and Caribbean Research and Higher Education Area is essential, and must be part of the agenda of the region’s governments and multilateral agencies.” The aim of this area should be to attain, among other aspects, “mutual recognition of courses and qualifications founded on quality assurance as well as the establishment of common academic credit systems accepted throughout the region.” As mentioned above, there was broad consensus on the Declaration. This document represents a significant commitment to transforming higher education in the region, taken on by the representatives of participating countries. The aims and principles of the Declaration—which bring the statements made at CRES 1996 up to date—should be integrated into the different reform processes (in many cases, this involves new ad hoc legislation) that need to be carried out in the higher education systems of Latin America and the Caribbean. After CRES 2008, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is suitably prepared to present proposals and viable action plans at CMES+10. More importantly, a new theoretical corpus and new guidelines for action have been systematised. These will be extremely important for the future of the countries in the region.

External Links

[http://www.cres2008.org CRES 2008]

[http://www.unesco.org UNESCO]

[http://www.iesalc.unesco.org.ve/index.php?lang=en Institute on Higher Education of Latin America and the Caribbean]


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