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13th Session of the Regional Committee on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific

Colombo, Sri Lanka

4-5 August 2014

As cross-border mobility of students within Asia-Pacific continues to grow, a fair process is needed to evaluate foreign credentials in a consistent manner. Recognising the substantial diversity that exists within the region, 26 delegations of state and non-state parties from Asia-Pacific came together to advance the norms and principles that are embodied in UNESCO’s 1983 Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education and the 2011 Revised Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education. International academic recognition and quality assurance were the key focal points during the 13th Session of the Regional Committee on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education, which was held in conjunction with the Regional Workshop on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 4-5 August 2014.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education emphasized the increasing importance of a regional approach to international academic recognition:  “Engagement with other countries through UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Conventions can improve comparability by ensuring that foreign qualifications are reviewed in a fair and transparent manner.” The Honourable Minister of Higher Education Mr. S. B. Dissanayake of Sri Lanka gave a pertinent example of international recognition in the context of Sri Lanka’s vision to become an international hub of excellence in higher education by 2020. To reach this goal, Sri Lankan universities will offer courses that are recognized internationally by local and global employers. Through UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Conventions and an ambitious higher education agenda, Sri Lanka aims to boost employability and their graduates’ ability to be 21st century “job creators”.


The delegates of the 13th Session of the Regional Committee agreed on the importance of the Regional Conventions in promoting cross-border mobility of students. During their country reports, representatives highlighted the diversity and challenges with regards to ratification of the 2011 Asia-Pacific Revised Regional Convention. One of the key outcomes from the national presentations was a commitment to actively address the political will within each Member State by better explaining the value and urgency of recognizing international qualifications. Participants agreed that the 2011 Revised Asia-Pacific Regional Convention is a key step towards long-term goals of developing referencing tools, credit mobility systems, and quality assurance mechanisms in Asia-Pacific. To date, China and Australia have ratified the 2011 Revised Asia-Pacific Regional Convention and deposited their instruments with UNESCO in July 2014.


The meeting was hosted by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Higher Education and the University Grants Commission with generous support from the Australian Government, Department of Education. Sri Lanka, represented by Mr. Sunil Jayantha Nawaratne, Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education was elected as Chairman of the 13th Session with Australia and China elected as 1st and 2nd Vice Chairman respectively, and India as Rapporteur.


In closing, Mr. Libing Wang, Senior Programme Specialist in Higher Education at UNESCO thanked the delegates and sponsors and challenged the group to take forward national initiatives that strengthen regional cooperation: “Collectively we must all do our part”. The 2011 Revised Asia-Pacific Regional Convention is a key building block in Asia-Pacific’s foundation of cooperation in higher education and UNESCO remains committed to supporting Member States as they ratify and implement the Convention and develop to their full potential.