According to UNESCO:
There were 152.5 million tertiary students worldwide in 2007, a roughly 50% increase compared to 2000......It is against this backdrop that UNESCO will hold the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education in Paris, France from 5 to 8 July.
Globally, the percentage of university-aged young people enrolled in tertiary education increased from 19% in 2000 to 26% in 2007. Women now account for a slight majority of students and their predominance is expected to increase.
Yet the average rate masks stark regional differences. Participation was 71% in North America and Western Europe, 26% in the East Asia/Pacific region, 23% in the Arab States, 11% in South and West Asia and, despite rapid growth, only 6% in Africa. A child in sub-Saharan Africa today still has less chance of reaching the end of primary school than a European has of entering university.
After the first World Conference on Higher Education was held in 1999, UNESCO created the Global University Network for Innovation, composed of UNESCO Chairs in Higher Education, research centers, universities, networks and other institutions highly committed to innovation in higher education. More than 100 institutions from around the world are GUNI members. The GUNI website is a good source for information on the global system of higher education.