The voice of educators at the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference

published 16 May 2022 updated 20 June 2022

The 3rd World Higher Education Conference brought together the global higher education community to reflect on how to address the impact of the pandemic and design the future of higher education to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Organised by UNESCO, the Conference took place from 18 -20 May 2022 in Barcelona, Spain.

Education International attended the event, representing higher education workers around the world.

The Education International delegation highlighted key issues including academic freedom, the status of higher education teaching and research personnel, and the need to address the increasing trends towards privatisation and commercialisation of the higher education sector.

Prior to the conference, Education International organised a consultation with its member organisations, the results of which were shared with the Conference secretariat, together with several relevant studies. Education International is also organising and participating in a number of events throughout the Conference.

Online side events

On the occasion of World Education Support Personnel (ESP) Day, on May 16, Education International’s webinar “Decent Work for ESP Now!”, had a dedicated session to showcase the experience of education support personnel in higher education.

In collaboration with Scholars At Risk, Education International hosted the online event: “Beyond words: A call for global guidance on implementing academic freedom, autonomy and related values”. The event took place on May 17. The session aimed to inform the debates at the Conference and raise awareness of the importance of academic freedom for the future of higher education. It also aimed to contribute to the debate on developing global authoritative guidance on implementing academic freedom at the global, regional, and national levels.

On-site sessions

Education International hosted two on-site roundtables at the World Higher Education Conference in order to create a union-led global conversation on the future of the workforce in higher education. These were held in collaboration with the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC).

The first roundtable, entitled “In the frontlines: The impact of Covid-19 on higher education workers”, discussed the short-, medium-, and long-term consequences of the pandemic on teachers, researchers, and other higher education personnel and possible implications for the future of the profession. It took place on 18th May 2022.

The second roundtable, “Setting the terms: the future of work in higher education”, took place on 19th May 2022. This session explored ongoing and future trends affecting higher education workers that must be considered as we define a new vision for the sector globally.

In parallel, Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, addressed a panel organised by the UNESCO Teacher Task Force and the International Labour Organisation on “Higher education teachers: reinventing the future of the profession”. This panel took place on 19th May 2022. The event discussed the impact the pandemic has had on higher education institutions and on the work of teachers, and the transformations needed concerning their status and professional development, in line with UNESCO’s 1997 Recommendation on Higher Education Teaching Personnel.