Education International
Education International

EI secures respect for academics’ rights at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

published 10 July 2009 updated 10 July 2009

Education International contributed extensively to the World Conference on Higher Education which took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 5-8 July 2009.

EI organised a one-day meeting for a number of its higher education affiliates on 3 July, co-organised the NGO’s conference on 4 July, and also co-organised the multi-stakeholder panel on higher education institutions and the academic community that took place on the final day of the conference. EI Vice President Irene Duncan Adanusa also delivered a speech at one of the opening sessions on the first day of the conference while Penni Stuart, President of one of EI’s affiliate higher education unions in Canada – the Canadian Association of University Teachers – also delivered a speech during a workshop on the academic profession.

EI was also present by means of an exhibition stand in the foyer of the conference venue for the duration of the conference, and EI Deputy General Secretary Monique Fouilhoux was a member of the drafting committee for the final communiqué of the World Conference on Higher Education. The Communiqué refers to a number of key global issues in relation to higher education in the coming decade, namely: the social responsibility of higher education; access, equity and quality; internationalisation, regionalisation and globalisation; learning, research and innovation; and higher education in Africa. The Communiqué ends with a call for action for both Member States and UNESCO.

EI succeeded in securing references to respect for academics’ rights in various parts of the Communiqué, which states:

Ensuring quality in higher education requires recognition of the importance of attracting and retaining qualified, talented and committed teaching and research staff (para. 21).

It is important for the quality and integrity of higher education that academic staff has opportunities for research and scholarship. Academic freedom is a fundamental value which must be protected in today’s evolving and volatile global environment (para. 37).

In particular, in the call for action for Member States, EI succeeded in having included a clause stating that "Member States, working in collaboration with all stakeholders, should develop policies and strategies at system and institutional levels to enhance the attractiveness of the academic career by ensuring respect for the rights and adequate working conditions of academic staff in accordance with the 1997 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel" (para. 49k).

Finally, the Communiqué also calls on UNESCO to "help governments and institutions implement its standard setting instruments, in particular the 1997 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel" (para 50c).