Some three million people are enrolled in institutions of higher education outside of their own countries. The Internet is transforming distance education, and it seems certain that there will be a dramatic growth in Internet mediated international educational services. While education was traditionally what economists term a "non-tradable" service, it is increasingly an element in international commerce. Indeed, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been the site of negotiations on trade in educational services, including primary, secondary, post-secondary and adult education services, as well as specialized training such as for sports. (These negotiations have been suspended with the suspension of the Doha Round.)
Not surprisingly, UNESCO too plays a role in this evolving system of international education. An important initiative in this respect is the UNESCO Portal on Higher Education Institutions which is intended to help students choose recognized institutions of higher education worldwide. It also publishes Study Abroad, an international guide to higher-education study opportunities and scholarships offered by higher education institutions and international organizations in some 151 countries.
Two aspects of UNESCO's program are describe below:
The UNESCO/OECD forum on trade in educational services conducted three international meetings early in this decade. The first of these meetings was held in Washington in May of 2002, cosponsored by the U.S. Government Departments of Education and Commerce, the Center for Quality Assurance in International Education (CQAIE, located in greater Washington D.C.) and the U.S. National Committee for International Trade in Education (NCITE). The second meeting were held in November of 2003 in Norway, and the third in 2004 in Australia. UNESCO in collaboration with the OECD has promulgated ‘Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-border Higher Education’.
UNESCO Conventions of the Recognition of Studies: A series of regional conventions have been negotiated and deposited with UNESCO by which countries pledge to recognize Studies, Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and other Academic Qualifications in Higher Education provided by qualified institutions in other signatory nations of the region. (A convention is a multi-party treaty.) Read more...
These conventions in turn have led to the creation of regional bodies which work to facilitate the efforts of nations in the regions to improve the quality of higher education, such as The Asia Pacific Academic Recognition Network (APARNET).
The World Conference on Higher Education will be held 5-8 July 2009 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.