Follow Us:

UNESCO Bangkok stresses its role in cross-border higher education

Director of UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education recently opened the ‘East Asia Summit Meeting on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications in the Asia-Pacific Region’ in Bangkok, Thailand.

“The growth of cross-border higher education has serious implications on students, academic staff, educational programmes and higher education institutions, said Mr. Gwang-Jo Kim.
“We need to protect students against the risk of misinformation, low quality provision and qualifications of limited validity.  We need to increase international validity and portability of qualifications by increasing their readability and transparency.  We need to increase transparency and coherence of recognition of qualifications procedure,” he said.

The meeting was attended by delegates from ASEAN countries and the Asia Pacific. It was held from 23 to 25 June 2011 and co-organized and co-sponsored by the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in Australia in collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok.

Globally, the mobility of students has increased fourfold since the mid-1970s. In 1975, there were around 0.6 million foreign students across the globe. This number has risen to 2.9 million in 2006. This mobility of students alone accounted for more than US$40 billion in export income in  2004.

Especially in East Asia and the Pacific, the number of students studying abroad has increased from 444 thousand in 1999 to 808 thousand in 2007. At the same time in South and West Asia from 101 thousand to 247 thousand. (UNESCO-UIS)

In addition, as more countries in the Asia-Pacific region reaches the Education for All target, the number of high school graduates seeking entrance into higher education will increase both at home and abroad.

“Higher education institutions need to know the equivalency of qualifications obtained from another country. Employers need to know the quality of qualifications of their employees regardless where they obtained their qualifications from,” said the Director.

UNESCO has been requested by the academic community to take a more proactive role in setting up an international framework for quality provision of cross-border education.  The key role of UNESCO in cross-border higher education is focused mainly on standard-setting, capacity building and information sharing.  

With respect to standard-setting activities, UNESCO has undertaken the revision of regional conventions on the recognition of academic qualifications in several regions to respond to new challenges of cross-border higher education.

The Regional Convention in Asia-Pacific, which was adopted in 1983, has been under revision by experts of the Working Group up till now. And the International Conference of States on the Amendments to the 1983 Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific will be held in Tokyo on 25-26 November this year to adopt the Revised Convention.

In addition to Regional Convention, UNESCO in collaboration with OECD, has developed the UNESCO-OECD Guidelines for Quality Provision of Cross-Border Higher Education which provides international guidelines and code of good practices to support an international framework for national policy developments.

As for capacity building, the task is to develop regional and national frameworks for quality assurance so as to help stakeholders in higher education to make informed decisions.  In this respect, UNESCO Bangkok has collaborated with Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN) to produce the UNESCO-APQN Toolkit for Regulating Cross-Border Education.

As regards information sharing, UNESCO is developing information tools for students, preparing database and publications on studying abroad, and creating a web-portal on recognized higher education institutions with the aim of promoting consumer protection.  With help from the Australian government, an Asia Pacific Academic Recognition Network web-portal named APARNET was established to assist in the collection, dissemination and exchange of information relating to the recognition of academic qualifications and higher education systems within the Asia-Pacific region.

With Japanese government’s funding, the UNESCO Portal on Higher Education which contains a list of all recognized higher education institutions in a given country has been developed. Currently, Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand have uploaded their information onto the Portal.

To continue its role, UNESCO Bangkok is organizing this three-day meeting on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications for participants from the ASEAN + 6 countries as a follow-up of the East Asian Summit in Vietnam last year.


View the presentations and pictures of the meeting