The Higher Education Caucus, organised as a pre-congress event, was attended by 119 people from unions representing higher education and research staff from all regions. The Caucus took stock of the progress made by EI in the area of higher education and research, and identified a number of challenges being faced by staff in this sector in the various countries.
The discussion brought a number of common serious concerns to the fore. Privatisation, commercialisation of education, tuition fees, academic freedom and related issues of quality were identified as shared concerns. The implementation of 1997 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel, and efforts to that end at national and international level, were discussed in great detail. Georges Haddad - Director of the Higher Education Division in UNESCO - and William Ratteree - the Senior Education Sector Specialist of the ILO – contributed extensively to this discussion. From the work done by EI, CEART (the Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel) and the experience of teachers’ unions at the national level, it is clear that the Recommendation is not being implemented, and that more needs to be done to ensure and defend the rights it lays down for higher education teaching personnel.
The issue of collaboration between EI and external partners was also addressed, in order to enhance its work on higher education and research. An ESU (European Students’ Union) delegation was present at the Caucus. ESU made the case for constructive collaboration between student and teachers’ unions, looking to the importance of a coordinated response to the key issues of corruption in universities and tuition fees. Collaboration as such was a recurring theme of the Caucus, with a number of appeal for more collaboration between unions, between regions, across EI’s work at all levels of education. A key issue during the debate was the solidarity for higher education and research staff in developing countries.
The Caucus touched upon key issues that will be further addressed in the resolutions and during the breakout sessions of the Congress on Monday.