UNESCO working towards global recognition of higher education qualifications

unescoIn recent years, mobility of students and workforce has created increased attention on instruments that would make cross-border recognition of educational qualifications easier. This has frequently been presented as an issue and can understandably be a quite frustrating process to have your hard earned foreign diploma not recognized in your home country. While a number of regional initiatives have emerged world wide – are we now witnessing a more global effort in this area?

Lisbon Convention

UNESCOs convention on recognition of qualifications for the European region was adopted in 1997 in Lisbon, and is signed by all of the 47 countries in the Council of Europe with the exception of Greece and Monaco.

It introduced a rather novel idea at the time as it states that qualifications are to be recognized between the countries that have signed the regional convention unless the recognition granting institution can prove “substantial differences”. Basically this means that the process of recognition is turned around – by default one does not need to prove equivalence of degrees to assure recognition, but one has to prove that there is substantial difference for degrees not to recognize a qualification. This is also one of the reasons why Lisbon Recognition convention has been essential in the context of the Bologna Process.

Increased focus on cross-border mobility and recognition in Europe

Recognition and cross-border mobility seems to be a topic that is increasingly gaining focus, also in difficult economic times when mobility of labour force and students is perhaps more relevant than ever and the inherent benefits of mobility are frequently emphasized in political documents and official statements.

Student Chronicle: study trip to Paris

May the 17th, 2011, ten students from the Hedda Master Programme on higher education boarded the plane to the Paris, where a good number of education related organizations are headquartered. They joined the academic trip organized by professor Lene Buchert from CIE. This trip review is written by Xiaonan Zhang who is now a second year Master student. 

We stayed in Paris for three days, and we were occupied by meetings with various organizations throughout the three days. We spent the whole day of May 18th at UNESCO headquarter, where we were given presentations from representatives of numerous research departments in UNESCO. The second day was spent in International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), where we learned the mandate and main activities of IIEP as well as some interesting researches carried out at IIEP. The last day was split into two parts: in the morning, we attended a conference at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); in the afternoon our group went to the International Association of Universities(IAU), where we met the director of communication and information services Isabelle Turmaine and the director of membership and programme development Hilligje van’t Land.

Knowledge Gains

The day spent at UNESCO started with a presentation on the Education Sector of UNESCO, since we all know UNESCO is an organization with focuses on education, science as well as culture. The presenter gave us an introduction of the general mandate and main activities of the education sector of UNESCO and this was followed by five different presentations throughout the day. In each presentation, the speakers gave us an introduction of the research projects they were in charge of. They showed us the rationale behind each research project, how they were carried out, what research methods were used and so forth. In the end of day we had a general discussion session where the audience members could raise any questions to the speakers, talking in person with them in their offices.

UNESCO Report: Trends in Global Higher Education

A report from the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution, offers an overview of global higher education trends over the last decade. The authors, Philip G. Altbach, Liz Reisberg, and Laura E. Rumbley explore the “engines of change” impacting higher education. Both Globalization and massification serve as the overarching themes of the report. Trends, such as increased student mobility, quality assurance, accountability, privatization efforts, are occurring around the globe. Teaching, learning and curricula, the academic profession, and the research environment continues to change with the times. The debate concerning higher education finance intensifies as higher education is contested as a public or private good. The report concludes by acknowledging the economic downturn and how it may affect higher education. “There is no doubt that higher education is entering a period of crisis, unprecedented since World War II, and the full impact is as yet unclear.”

UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

The second World Conference on Higher Education hosted by UNESCO opened this week with nearly 1,000 participants representing 148 countries.The theme of the conference is “New Dynamics of Higher Education.”  The global issues facing higher education leaders are much different today compared to the higher education issues presented at the first conference held over a decade ago in 1998. As quoted in an UNESCO conference press release, “Higher education institutions play a strategic role in finding
solutions to today’s leading challenges in the fields of health,
science, education, renewable energies, water management, food security
and the environment,” 44bb5561ca.jpgsaid UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. Philip Altbach, Director of Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, furthers this point as quoted in the Inside Higher Education, “It became clear to us that we are indeed in the middle of an almost
unprecedented revolution in higher education — not just small changes
around the edges, but fundamental changes. And our job in the trend
— and I think in this conference as well — is to try to
understand and then deal with, in constructive ways, the nature of this
revolution. It’s different, ladies and gentlemen, from what’s gone on

UNESCO is posting web-casts of all plenary sessions on their website.


Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO

Dr Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States