Resolution on higher education and research as a public service

published 25 July 2007 updated 14 May 2024

The 5th World Congress of Education International (EI) meeting in Berlin, Germany from 22-26 July 2007,

1. Notes that this year marks the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel affirming that:

a. higher education teaching personnel and research staff are entitled to academic freedom which includes the right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom in carrying out research and disseminating and publishing the results thereof, freedom to express freely their opinion about the institution or system in which they work, freedom from institutional censorship and freedom to participate in professional or representative academic bodies;

b. the right to education, teaching and research can only be fully enjoyed in an atmosphere of academic freedom and autonomy for institutions of higher education;

c. tenure or its functional equivalent, where applicable, constitutes one of the major procedural safeguards of academic freedom;

d. higher education teaching personnel and research staff should enjoy the right to freedom of association, and the right to bargain collectively as promoted in the standards and instruments of the International Labour Organization (ILO); and

e. working conditions for higher education teaching personnel and research staff should be such as will best promote effective teaching, scholarship, and research;

2. Recalls the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "everyone has the right to education" and that "higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit", and the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), which calls on states to "make higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity";

3. Reaffirms the Higher Education and Research policy principles set out by the Harare (1995), Washington (1998), Jomtien (2001), and Porto Allegre (2004) World Congresses;

4. Affirms that higher education and research is a vital public good that contributes to the social, cultural, and economic development of communities, nations, and regions and that it is therefore the responsibility of States to ensure that higher education and research institutions are adequately funded;

5. Considers that the primary objectives of public research include the progress of knowledge and the satisfaction of social and environmental needs. The responsibility to establish research policy should be entrusted to democratically-elected bodies, with a majority of representatives of personnel, and not to military-industrial complexes or private multinational companies;

6. Recognizes the challenges higher education teaching personnel and research staff face around the world with respect to:

a. institutional and political censorship, and restrictions on scholarly activity;

b. the absence and the weakening of trade union and collective bargaining rights; and

c. the continued decline of working and professional conditions arising from reduced professional autonomy, increasing differentiation of teaching and research and the growing use of fixed term and/or casual labour including the erosion of tenure and its functional equivalent. The promotion of labour flexibility by institutional managements and national governments is the primary mechanism driving increased casualisation, with adverse consequences for early-stage teachers and researchers.

7. Considers that the public mission of higher education and research, both nationally and internationally, is under pressure from a number of forces, including:

a. insufficient levels of public funding needed to ensure higher education and research institutions serve the public interest, and the reorganisation and restructuring of public higher education systems along market lines, with an allied emphasis on more highly stratified and differential public funding for teaching and research;

c. limits on the accessibility of higher education as a result of rising tuition fees in many countries;

d. restrictions on academic freedom and public intellectual commentary arising from national government funding and accountability policies, and anti-collective bargaining laws and policies;

e. the increasing number of attacks on academic freedom and civil liberties in the name of the so-called ëwar on terror' that is restricting the free and open debate necessary to challenge extremism or terrorism of all kinds;

f. the development of international institutional rankings and standardized tests of higher education students which distort the mission of higher education and research by encouraging a market-driven competition between nations and institutions;

g. the use of standardized management models, which are inspired by corporate methods based on short-term and crude performance indicators;

h. the displacement of representative peer-assessed research practices by government and managerially-driven administrative systems;

i. the attempt to include higher education and research services in legally-binding commercial trade agreements like the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as well as regional and plurilateral agreements

j. continuing brain drain of higher education teaching personnel and research staff from emerging and developing to developed countries, and the potential of this inequality to increase as result of the aging workforce in industrialized countries;

k. standardisation and/or harmonisation of higher education accreditation, qualification and quality assurance processes; and

l. attempts by national governments to more directly control and erode the internal democratic decision making processes of higher education institutions, with adverse consequences for institutional autonomy and direct participation in decision making by higher education teaching personnel and research staff.

8. Welcomes the work of EI on higher education and research issues since the Porto Allegre (2004) World Congress, including lobbying and dialogue with UNESCO, OECD, ILO and WTO officials, and the organization of the 5th EI Higher Education and Research Conference in Melbourne (2005) and the continuing campaign by EI to exclude education and research services from GATS;

9. Encourages members, with the assistance of EI where necessary, to:

a. promote academic freedom;

b. support an increased use of tenured appointments, or their functional equivalents, and reductions in the use of precarious short-term contracts;

c. monitor the effects of anti-terrorism laws;

d. oppose commercialisation of higher education and research and continue the campaign to exclude education from trade agreements;

e. facilitate the exchange and mobility of higher education teaching personnel and research staff through cooperative initiatives, such as reciprocal membership agreements;

f. support increased public investment for higher education through equitable tax provisions, oppose any increase in student fees and support needs-based financial assistance to students; and

g. establish and strengthen collaboration with student organisations at institutional and national levels, where appropriate;

10. Resolves that EI and its affiliate members should work to:

a. pursue higher education and research issues within the framework of "Educators Joining Together for Quality Education and Social Justice", noting that EI Higher Education and Research policies draw links between the specific interests of higher education and its contribution to, and connection with primary and secondary education;

b. promote higher education and research as both as both a public good and public service;

c. build capacity to campaign against the inclusion of education and research services in trade agreements;

d. promote international cooperation in higher education and research by building links and strengthening the capacity of EI higher education and research affiliates, particularly in developing and transition countries;

e. explore patterns of staff and student mobility and the national and institutional obstacles which limit this, and develop a positive policy on mobility which enhances the quality experience for staff and students, as a key strategic element in EI's overall response;

f. confront the issues and problems associated with the national and international rankings of higher education institutions, noting that such rankings often underpin the creation of national and international markets in higher education, and are rarely neutral or objective;

g. assess the implications of any Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) type instrument for higher education, noting that such instruments are not necessarily suited to the inherently selective character of higher education institutions. Where such instruments are used, they should take account of the various funding and socio-economic bases of individual higher education institutions; and

f. develop a response to the shortages and ageing academic labour force in many countries, ëbrain drain' in emerging and developing countries, consistent with the ILO objective of "fair globalization" including offering attractive employment where people live.

11. Mandates the EI Executive Board:

a. organise a higher education and research conference in 2009 with preference to be given to a venue in Latin America;

b. develop studies, newsletters and other publications on trade issues designed to promote key EI Higher Education and Research policies amongst EI affiliates and national governments, drawing upon the research expertise of EI Higher Education and Research affiliates;

c. lobby international bodies such as UNESCO, ILO, World Bank, IMF and the OECD to protect and promote the interests and rights of higher education teaching personnel and research staff;

d. campaign for the full implementation of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel;

e. continue to engage a consultant from the Higher Education and Research sector to assist with EI's campaign on GATS and other trade issues; and

f. make greater efforts to encourage the participation of existing affiliates and the recruitment of new affiliates in the Asia Pacific, Latin American and African regions, noting that this will require the active engagement of EI's Regional Offices.