Policy reviews and quality assurance in higher education

Policy reviews for the development of national higher education systems

Higher education systems play a major role in the development of any society and its economy. Within the Education 2030 Agenda UNESCO supports Member States in building knowledge-based economies, which provide sustainable employment opportunities and good standards of living for all.

Higher education strategies not only reiterate the values shared by the education system stakeholders, they provide a “health-check” of the system, compare its performance against others and particularly those that are well-performing, communicates goals and future orientations, and expresses political commitments to advancement in this field.

Quality assurance in higher education

Over the last two decades, quality assurance in higher education has gained significant momentum worldwide. Major drivers for this momentum include: increased public demand for better performance of higher education institutions, widening of access and a clear call from stakeholders for greater efficiency and accountability, the need for better quality graduates to drive national economies, better use of public resources for higher education and increasing cross-border provisions. Challenges include: a mismatch between higher education graduate skills and those demanded by the labour market and industry, an imbalance between the number of students studying sciences and those in arts-based courses, and the proliferation of private providers. 

For this reason, UNESCO and its Member States are building capacity for quality assurance in higher education, particularly in developing countries. This involved putting in place and/or strengthening appropriate quality assurance systems and regulatory frameworks with the involvement of all the stakeholders.

This call to action came on the heels of unprecedented growth in the rate of higher education participation worldwide. Global enrolment in 2000 was 97 million, 155.2 million in 2007 and 207.5 million in 2014 with around 10 per cent participating through online, distance and flexible learning. It is estimated that overall enrolment will reach 412,196 million students in 2030 and 522,526 million in 2035.

Higher education is central to socio-economic development, and vital to competitiveness in an increasingly globalizing world. The principles guiding the Education 2030 Agenda: “Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all underscores the importance of establishing robust quality assurance systems to address the above challenges. 

To this end, UNESCO supports national policies to improve quality assurance and in order to do so engages with policymakers, educationalists, quality assurance professionals and other regulatory bodies and stakeholders.

Against this background, UNESCO is organizing an International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education, in 2018, at its Paris headquarters.  Regional events will be organized in the run-up with proceedings and reports feeding into the conference.