The higher education sector plays a major role in UNESCO’s education programme as a sphere for academic training and a pillar of lifelong learning.
The Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications in the higher education sector was launched in 2001. Background of the initiative is the growing international debate on the liberalisation of services in the field of education within the scope of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Global Forum provides a platform for the dialogue between university representatives, students and organisations, which are concerned with international issues of quality assurance, accreditation and the recognition of qualifications.
One outcome of the forum is a common initiative of UNESCO and OECD, which lead to the formulation of the OECD/UNESCO Guidelines on the Quality Provision of Cross-Border Higher Education.
UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE)
The World Conference on Higher Education took place from 5th-8th of July 2009 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The conference was entitled "The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development".
Since 1972, the European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES – Centre Européen pour l'Enseignement Supérieur) has been promoting the cooperation of universities in UNESCO member states in Europe (including USA, Canada and Israel). UNESCO-CEPES has been a advisory member of the Bologna Process follow-up since 2003. Prof. Dr. Klaus Hüfner, member of the German Commission for UNESCO, was chairman of the international board of trustees of UNESCO-CEPES.
In the past years, concrete projects have been implemented in cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Rector’s Conference (HRK), the Freie Universität Berlin and the Fachhochschule Gelsenkirchen. The highly renown volume "The World-Class University and Ranking: Aiming Beyond Status", edited by Jan Sadlak and Liu Nian Cai, was published in 2007, with financial support by the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung.
In 2009, UNESCO and the Rumanian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the transitional continuation of the work of UNESCO-CEPES work with a new focus on countries in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe from January 1st 2010 till December 31st 2011. During this time, the institute acted as a decentralized unit of UNESCO. On December 31st 2011, the institute was closed due to a lack of funding.