In Global Peace Through The Global University System

2003 Ed. by T. Varis, T. Utsumi, and W. R. Klemm

University of Tampere, Hameenlinna, Finland



Objectives and Institutionalisation


the Global University System *



Marco Antonio R. Dias

Special Assistant to the Rector of the United Nations University

Former Director of the Division of Higher Education of UNESCO



* This is based on the Paper contributed to the Final Report of the workshop on "Emerging Electronic Global Distance Learning" at the University of Tampere, Finland (9 to 13 August 1999).





In the presentation of the workshop on "Emerging Electronic Global Distance Learning" held at the University of Tampere, in Finland from 9 to 13 August 1999, the organizers of that event declared that "the digital revolution and economic globalisation are taking us into a new era.  We are moving towards the global knowledge society where information, skills and competence become the driving forces of social and economic development.  The problems associated with this transformation cannot any longer be solved by traditional means.  Effective learning requires upgraded multimedia educational materials which can only be used with the broadband Internet."


Few people disagree with this point of view.  Probably, we are facing a transformation in the economy, in society and in civilization that is more important than the changes that occurred in the world during the industrial revolution.  Learning, knowledge, information have now become the pilots of world society.  However, it is important not to confuse information with knowledge.  Information is a set of data to which one has access.  Knowledge presupposes an ability to learn and a cognitive capacity.


In the political domain, this distinction is essential to allow citizens to take a stand when confronted by the kind of manipulation they face at present.  In the economic sector, there is a fundamental difference today between those who conceive the industrial products - the most important element - and their production.  The conception aspect is linked to research and development based on science and the codification of theoretical knowledge.


Martin Carnoy, a North-American professor, researcher and author, wrote in a recent book on the new economic science that low salaries and low prices on raw materials are no longer enough to ensure a country a place in the world table.  He added:


"People's work has shifted from the production of agricultural and manufactured goods to the production of services and to increasingly sophisticated services at that.  The main ingredient in these new services is knowledge - knowledge that increases productivity, provides a closer fit between a client's specific needs and the services delivered, and create possibilities for the development of new products and new services.  With more competition, knowledge also becomes increasingly important in manufacturing and agriculture.  Quality of production, design, efficient organization, new products, customized production, and just-in-time delivery are the knowledge-intensive aspects dominating today's manufacturing and agricultural activities in both developed countries and the export sectors of developing countries."


Along the same lines of thinking, Ambassador Ricupero, Secretary General of UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), used to say that " ... today, what really makes the difference between success and failure is the capacity of competition based on technology, science and knowledge."


The ILO (the International Labour Organization) also confirmed this in its report on employment in the world in 1998-1999, in which it stated that education and technical training are two essential elements for the competitiveness of a country.


The ILO pointed out that the wealth of nations is currently based on the knowledge and qualifications of its labour power.  A strategy of education and training, which includes three basic elements, will create the conditions to overcome obstacles linked to globalisation through a renewed competitiveness, combined with the reduction of increasing inequalities observed in the labour market.  These three elements are:


a)           to develop knowledge and the skills required to make the country competitive at the international level;

b)          to guide policies and education programmes to stimulate the reduction of negative effects of globalisation;

c)           to relieve, through education and training, the increasing vulnerability of certain categories of the population: women, young people, less qualified workers, all lacking education and skills and condemned to become poor.



Solidarity or Exclusion


In the face of this reality, what will be the results of this new era in social terms?  At the end of the day, will the new society be a better one, will the 21st century be known as the century of democratisation, or are we at the beginning of a new era of concentration, elitism and, as a consequence, exclusion?


When in 1999, the UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) launched its annual version of the World Human Report, it was clear that new technologies and globalisation were the main elements discussed by this United Nations University at that moment.  The "final judgement" was rigorous, denouncing the increasing marginalisation of poor countries inside a global economy dominated by information technologies.  Let us mention one unique example: the 29 countries of OECD, the club of richest countries accounting for 19% of the world population, had at that time 91% of Internet users.


More than 50% of these users were located in the United States, which represents only 5% of the world population.  Since then, data presented by international organizations confirm this reality: new technologies have an enormous potential for the democratisation of knowledge, but once again, the way they are being developed consolidates the digital divide.  This makes it more difficult for them to eliminate barriers that put them in a weak position when compared to developed countries.


In this paper, we will present some elements for discussion concerning this subject and its implication for education, in particular for higher education, as well as measures being taken (or which can be taken) to increase cooperation in this field and, as a consequence, narrow the gap among and within countries.  This could, and should, constitute a framework for the action of a network such as GUS - the Global University System.



Impact on Education


"To meet the challenges of globalisation, it would in fact appear necessary to prepare individuals for a workplace where responsibilities are constantly changing, where vertical management is replaced by networking, where information passes through multiple and informal channels, where initiative-taking is more important than obedience, and where strategies are especially complex because of the expansion of markets beyond national borders.  Therefore, education must help individuals to perform tasks for which they were not originally trained, to prepare for a non-linear career path, to improve their team skills, to use information independently, to develop their capacity for improvisation as well as their creativity, and finally to lay the basis of complex thinking linked to the harsh realities of practical life" (Poisson, 1998).


In the field of higher education, this subject is being discussed at all international conferences dealing with this level of education.  This was particularly true at the World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE), which took place in Paris, from 5 to 9 October 1998.  This conference was particularly important.  Why?


Over four thousand people attended the WCHE.  Two basic documents - the "World Declaration on Higher Education for the XXI Century: Vision and Action" and the "Framework for Priority Action for Change and Development of Higher Education" were adopted on this occasion and are included in UNESCO's Internet site:


This was the first time that so many people had come together, within the framework of an international organization, to talk exclusively about the subject of higher education.  Over 180 countries sent representatives with more than 120 Ministers of Education and/or of Higher Education presiding over their delegations together with members of parliament, representatives from the economic private sector, students' and teachers' unions, national councils of rectors, associations of universities from all over the world, etc.  The challenge was to identify the way ahead for higher education in the coming century, to analyse its role in the development process and to see how higher education should be organized in order to cooperate in building a better society in the future.


There were five regional preparatory conferences held in Havana, Dakar, Tokyo, Palermo and Beirut.  In the course of these meetings, it became clear that the twentieth century, in particular its second half, was the period that will be recorded as the time in which higher education increased quantitatively in an extraordinary way, with also qualitative modifications in the systems.  This period, which was one of recession and limitation of funds and resources, produced significant changes in the organization of the institutions and systems of higher education, together with permanent monitoring of their mechanisms and the fulfilment of the goals set.


In the last ten years, the development of information technologies was also seen as having allowed for greater cooperation, which could constitute the basis for both greater solidarity and a strengthening of the different profiles of people, institutions and countries.



New Technologies in the WCHE


The use of new communication and information technologies is a predominant theme that emerged in all preparatory regional conferences for the WCHE.  Some conferences highlighted its importance for relevance and quality, others emphasized the need for cooperation in this field, others preferred to call attention to its use as a tool for better management of institutions, that is to say, as an instrument for attaining the goals of the institutions.


The outcome of all these discussions was that in Paris, in October 1998, it was a key subject in all the commission meetings and thematic debates.  The text of the Declaration was carefully revised, and at the end, the participants approved a paragraph (No. 12), under the title of  "the potential and the challenge of technology," which read as follows:


"The rapid breakthroughs in new information and communication technologies will further change the way knowledge is developed, acquired and delivered.  It is also important to note that the new technologies offer opportunities to innovate on course content and teaching methods and to widen access to higher learning.  However, it should be borne in mind that new information technology does not reduce the need for teachers but changes their role in relation to the learning process and that the continuous dialogue that converts information into knowledge and understanding becomes fundamental.  Higher education institutions should lead in drawing on the advantages and potential of new information and communication technologies, ensuring quality and maintaining high standards for education practices and outcomes in a spirit of openness, equity and international co-operation by:


a)     engaging in networks, technology transfer, capacity building, developing teaching materials and sharing experience of their application in teaching, training and research, making knowledge accessible to all;


b)    creating new learning environments, ranging from distance education facilities to complete virtual higher education institutions and systems, capable of bridging distances and developing high-quality systems of education, thus serving social and economic advancement and democratisation as well as other relevant priorities of society, while ensuring that these virtual education facilities, based on regional, continental or global networks, function in a way that respects cultural and social identities;


c)     noting that, in making full use of information and communication technology (ICT) for educational purposes, particular attention should be paid to removing the grave inequalities which exist among and also within the countries of the world with regard to access to new information and communication technologies and to the production of the corresponding resources;


d)    adapting ICT to national, regional and local needs and securing technical, educational, management and institutional systems to sustain it;


e)     facilitating through international co-operation, the identification of the objectives and interests of all countries, particularly the developing countries, equitable access and the strengthening of infrastructures in this field and the dissemination of such technology throughout society;


f)     closely following the evolution of the 'knowledge society' in order to ensure high quality and equitable regulations for access to prevail;


g)    taking the new possibilities created by the use of ICT into account, while realising that it is, above all, institutions of higher education that are using ICTs in order to modernize their work, and not ICTs transforming institutions of higher education from real to virtual institutions."


It is essential to highlight that during the preparations for the WCHE, it became clear that before defining the kind of university to be built, it is essential to agree on the kind of society we are looking for.  As it was stated in the preamble of the Declaration, everybody agreed that "on the eve of a new century, there is an unprecedented demand for, and a great diversification in higher education, as well as an increased awareness of its vital importance for socio-cultural and economic development, and for building the future, for which the younger generations will need to be equipped with new skills, knowledge and ideals."  Solidarity and equity were present in all the debates and constituted a conceptual basis for all principles defined in the Declaration and all actions defined in the Priority Framework for Action adopted by the Conference.



Education as a Service or as a Right?


An important debate is currently taking place within universities but also among researchers, diplomats and governmental sectors all over the world.  Can education be considered as a commercial service and, as a result, regulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO)?


If the reply is positive, does this mean that the rules and principles of GATS (the General Agreement on Trade in Services) apply to education or should it be considered as a public service?


What are the implications of the answer to this question?  And if the idea of public service is retained, what are the principles that must guide the organization, content and policies for higher education in developing countries in general?


On the other side, on 23 September 1998, the WTO secretariat issued a document which, after explaining that rapid changes are taking place in the area of higher education, concluded on the need to include this level of education in the list of trade in international services.


For many representatives of the academic world, this contradicts the decision taken by more than 180 government representatives during the WCHE in Paris in 1998, when it was stated that higher education must be considered as a public service, independently of the juridical nature of the institution providing it.  For a service to be considered public, its provision must first of all be implemented on an equal basis, it must be continuous and permanent, and no bet subject to any kind of discrimination, including commercial or financial ones.  This, in the view of the entire academic community, applies to education and, in particular, to higher education.  It is evident in this debate that this notion of public service is implicit.  In concrete terms, a public service (the provision of water, for example) or the development and management of public transport, can be entrusted to the private sector, under regulations issued by public authorities.  Everyone must have the right to drinkable water, independently of which organization provides this service.  Concerning higher education - and this is a matter of principle - the academic community and the representatives of more than 180 countries considered it to be a public service, which must be accessible to all on the basis of merit, no kind of discrimination being acceptable.


The GATS (the Global Agreement on Trade Services), approved in 1994, included a series of principles and measures that have implications for higher education if it is in fact treated as a commodity (definition of governmental services, the principle of most favoured nation, national treatment, etc).


In the document mentioned above, the WTO Secretariat (S/C/W/49) stated that "education is normally regarded as a 'public consumption' item, provided in many instances free of charge or at prices not reflecting the costs of producing it."


However, the WTO Secretariat also observed "education also exists as a 'private consumption' item with a price determined freely by the providing institutions."  It added that the "consequences of this shift in control have included less government funds, more competition and institutional reforms to cut costs and raise revenues.  These, in turn, have resulted in an effort to attract more fee-paying students, including foreign ones."  From this statement, and based on a reality - the commercialisation is a fact in many countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and is also an important element in the list of exports of these countries - the WTO Secretariat went even further and concluded on the need to incorporate higher education in the list of trade in international services.


What really plays an important role in the discussions related to these issues is the fact that billions of dollars are part of the game.  Merrill Lynch, the North American Investment Bank, has calculated that the world knowledge market in 1999 reached 9.4 billions dollars.  Furthermore, this sum could amount to more than 53 billion dollars before the year 2003, estimated this bank.


In May 1992, the United States government, together with the World Bank and OECD, organised a meeting on these issues in Washington.  As indicated in one of the working documents, "until recently, education has been largely absent from the debate on globalisation because it was thought to be essentially a non-traded service.  But this is not the case.  Trade in educational services is already a major business in some countries, e.g., in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States".  Australia, in fact, exported US$6 million worth of higher education in 1970 and increased its production in higher education to over 2 billion in 2000.  According to the same source, during the past year, the amount of money in the higher education market of OECD countries reached a total of US$30 billion.


WTO plays a legislative role and its Members are obliged to adapt their laws to its rules and agreements.  It also has judicial functions through the Dispute Settlement Body.  Recently, and this is a just one example, Brazil was called upon to change its constitution in order to adapt to decisions taken by WTO concerning the ownership of communication enterprises.


For many analysts, the creation of WTO and the adoption by its Member States of the principles included in GATS has, in fact, created a global economic government and many of them feel that the way globalisation is being implemented favours the developed world in particular.  As a consequence, proposals are being submitted to stimulate a fairer sharing of the results of this process.  UNCTAD, the United Nations University, the United Nations Secretariat in New York itself and other organizations are looking for "globalisation with a human face," in which the UNU system should play the central role.  The new technologies should help to reduce the gap between nations and even inside countries, and they cannot be dominated by one single nation or by a small group of nations.


As stated by the Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, during an address at the University for Peace in Costa Rica on 28 November 2001, "The United Nations is the most universal forum for global governance".  Mr. Tuomioja clearly shows that globalisation is a process that "has multiplied its effects and presented us with vastly enhanced opportunities, but also new challenges".  And among these challenges related to globalisation, he notes, "the increase of wealth and prosperity is being distributed more unequally than before, between and inside countries and regions as well as globally."


Now, with changes in the Directorate of WTO, a movement is under way to reform the WTO itself.  Better participation of developing countries in the decision-making process, greater transparency in discussions and decisions taken by the organization, closer links with other multilateral organizations, a more equitable sharing of the results of the trade process, with the elimination, for example, of subsidies for the agricultural products of the richest countries, should be part of these reforms.  This issue was the object of in-depth analyses published recently in two books, edited under the auspices of the United Nations University (Sampson, 2001; Nayyar, 2002).


The arguments put forward by WTO used to have a great impact on many analysts, impressed by the fact that the commercialisation of education is a clear tendency and that the presence of private universities, even in European countries where the public service is a tradition, is increasing substantially.  Today, in a country such as Brazil, almost 80% of university students are enrolled in private institutions.


However, this kind of consideration is a great mistake.  The existence of private providers does not justify adopting the principle of transforming education into a commodity.  As several other public services, the provision of education can be entrusted, delegated, or granted to private persons or institutions, but under rigid regulations and submission to serious evaluation practices.  In fact, the implication of the question raised by university associations from Europe, North America and later Latin America was the refusal to adopt the market as a principle to guide the education and training of citizens.



Is Globalization with a Human Face Possible?


For many analysts, this kind of question is the result of the way globalisation is being implemented.  As a reaction, many organizations and individuals look for globalisation with human face.  They insist on the need for a new way of treating the external debts of developing countries, the promotion of access of these countries to the market of developed countries free of protectionism, and as well as access for these countries to decision-making mechanisms inside financial international organizations, such as World Bank, IMF and WTO, the reform of the entire multilateral system, which should reflect the interests of the international community as a whole, and the reinforcement of collaboration at all levels, including in the area of education, among countries with cultural, economic or geographic similarities, and finally the elimination of the digital divide.


Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary General of UNCTAD, points to the need for initiatives to implement commitments made in favour of developing countries, related to such areas as agricultural subsidies, anti-dumping duties, tariff peaks directed at products exported by developing countries, the absence of meaningful commitments on the movements of natural persons, the slow removal of quotas on textiles and clothing, and the promotion of technology transfer.


Even the Secretary General of the UN criticises the system, saying for example that "industrialized countries, it seems, are happy enough to export handmade goods to each other, but from developing countries they will want only raw materials, not finished products.  As a result, their average tariffs on the manufactured products they import from developing countries are now four times higher than the ones they impose on products that come mainly from other industrialized countries."


On this point, the United Nations University seeks to stimulate reflection on the multilateral system and on the relations between governance and globalisation at world level.  In this context, in the view of the UNU, governance refers to the formation and stewardship of the formal and informal rules regulating the public realm, the arena in which State as well as economic and societal actors interacts to make decisions.  It describes the modalities, values and institutions employed to organize human life at all levels, within and between societies.


Matters related to citizenship are part of this programme.  In fact, an analysis of the work undertaken by the UNU ( in this field shows that emphasis is given to:


The start of the twenty-first century, according to the UNU, is witnessing global interactions on a scale and intensity unparalleled in history - within and between businesses, governments and people.  As global interaction and integration grow, issues of global governance are becoming more and more critical.  Problems, whether economic, social or environmental, increasingly spill over into neighbouring, and even distant, countries.  Policy decisions by governments have international implications, and truly global problems are emerging.  While globalisation offers great potential to improve human livelihood around the world, there is a concern that the process is getting out of control.


It is now more than fifty years since the foundation of the United Nations system and the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions in 1945.  However, the world changed considerably during the second half of the twentieth century, matched by equally broad changes in thinking on key issues.  Is the present framework of global governance institutions geared to deal with the challenges of the twenty-first century?  The findings of the study by the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER) on the New Roles and Functions of the United Nations and Bretton Woods Institutions do not seem to suggest this.  This study analyses the latest thinking with regard to cross-border flows in the areas of trade, finance, technology and labour, and sketches the contours of institutions and governance that would meet the needs of the world in the coming 25 years.


The analysis in this UNU/WIDER study highlights five key points for steering globalisation:


i)      There is a necessity for a new world view and global message stressing that efficiency and the needs of the market be balanced by a greater concern for peace, equity and sustainability.


ii)    Better global public goods must be provided.  Just as markets and societies at the national level require goods (such as clean air and road signs) and rules (regarding, for example, fair competition and pollution), so increasing globalisation means that public goods at the global level will be needed more and more, both as a foundation for efficient global markets and to ensure that global society gains maximum benefit.


iii)   Unbalanced aspects of globalisation must be resolved.  The various facets of globalisation are proceeding in very different ways.  The openness of global financial markets, for example, contrasts drastically with the closed nature of global labour markets.


iv)   Institutional innovation is required in two areas: (a) International Financial Architecture and (b) International Labour Movements.  The inability of national or global institutions to deal with financial flows is a critical concern.  And while the cross-border movement of people remains highly restricted by national governments, the pressure for change is increasing dramatically.  The growing disparity in economic opportunities will be accentuated by demographic factors (aging in industrialized countries and population growth in developing countries) and the increasing availability of information about opportunities elsewhere.


v)     Reform of the UN and Bretton Woods Institutions is required.  The UN and BWIs are becoming increasingly marginalized and will need to improve both their legitimacy and effectiveness to reverse this trend.  In order to reinforce their legitimacy, the UN and BWIs will need to make their governance structures more representative - not just of the governments of member countries but also of their people.


It was with this same approach that the World Conference on Higher Education recommended, that "programmes of international cooperation should be based on long-term links of collaboration between institutions in the North and South, designed at promoting cooperation between the North and the South and also inside the South.  Priority should be given to training programmes in developing countries in centres of acknowledged excellence organized over regional and international networks, together with short duration crash courses on specialist subjects overseas.  Priority should be given to creating an environment conducive to attracting and retaining qualified human resources via national policies or international agreements which would allow highly competent researchers and experts to return to their countries in the best possible conditions.  This could be achieved via programmes of collaboration which, thanks to their international dimension, would facilitate the full use of endogenous skills."



Conceptual and Methodological Basis


Since the end of the eighties, before the WCHE took place, UNESCO launched a debate and stimulated actions aimed at developing cooperation in higher education based on equity and solidarity.  Three initiatives should be mentioned at this respect:


1.     The launching of the document "Policy Paper for Change and Development in Higher Education."

2.     The launching of the document "Open and Distance Learning - Prospects and Policy Considerations" (1997)

3.     The launching of the UNITWIN Programme in 1991


The Director General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, launched UNESCO's Policy Paper, prepared by the Division of Higher Education, in 1995, after a worldwide reflection.  It served as an instrument for several governments in their reflection on changes in higher education systems and was the initial basis for the preparation of the World Conference on Higher Education.


In fact, after analysing the main current trends in higher education (quantitative expansion, diversification of structures and forms, constraints on funding and resources, enhanced internationalisation), the document dealt with the main challenges for higher education in a changing world, giving an overview of the major challenges to be faced and presenting the shifting imperatives of economic and technological development and the new development strategies for higher education.  Finally, the document treated in detail matters related to:


a)     RELEVANCE (relations with society, higher education and the world of work, relations with the State, funding, renewal of teaching and learning, research, responsibility towards other education levels),

b)    QUALITY (staff and programmes, students, infrastructure and academic environment) and finally,

c)     INTERNATIONALISATION of higher education (principles and forms of international cooperation, access to knowledge, networking for academic excellence).


This document can be found on UNESCO's Internet site.  New technologies are mentioned in several parts of the document (paragraphs No. 23, 36, 43, 73, 75 to 77, 102, 105, 107, 108, 132).  According to paragraph No. 76: "Higher education institutions should make greater use of the advantages offered by the advancement of communication technologies.  It is now possible, for example, to integrate distance learning into more traditional study programmes without loss of quality.  As a result of such developments, the distinction between distance and traditional education is becoming blurred.  Alternative delivery systems are becoming an increasingly viable element in a forward-looking blueprint for higher education, especially in opening up to a new clientele and creating flexible strategies in order to overcome the disadvantages associated with the traditional organization of studies.  Co-operation with either public and/or private organizations and associations should be fostered in this respect."


The Policy Paper on Higher Education was completed in 1997 by another policy paper, this one dedicated to "Open and Distance Learning - Prospects and Policy Considerations," a recently revised version (2002) of which can also be found on UNESCO's Internet site.


According to this document, while it is true that "the last two decades have seen considerable growth in educational training É the world still suffers from intolerable inequalities at the international level and sometimes within nations."


News technologies are examined with a positive approach.  "The rapid development of information and communication technologies and the move towards a more knowledge-intensive, interdependent society create new challenges and opportunities for the design and delivery of education."


This document shows that "one of the technological trends is the emergence of new forms of distance learning based on more interactive telecommunications technologies, with pedagogical, economic, and organizational implications.  Furthermore, there is a significant trend towards internationalisation.  Institutional and inter-governmental cooperation is increasing, and the 'global classroom' has been achieved in quite a number of projects, particularly in connection with emerging global communication networks."


However, it has been noted, "in the developing world, open and distance learning suffers from many of the problems faced by conventional education.  Additionally, lack of infrastructure and professional competence in open and distance learning are important barriers.  Nevertheless, these forms of educational delivery have come to stay, and many countries are looking at open and distance learning as a major strategy for expanding access and raising quality."



International Cooperation


In 1989, the Member States requested UNESCO's Secretariat to elaborate an international plan of action for strengthening inter-university cooperation, with particular emphasis on support for higher education in developing countries.  The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, elaborated and implemented by UNESCO's Division of Higher Education, was approved by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1991 and was designed to instil a spirit of solidarity based on linkages, networking and other kinds of cooperation agreements among higher education institutions all over the world aimed, in particular, at benefiting developing countries.


The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme favours the creation of networks at the sub-regional, regional and inter-regional levels among higher education and research institutions.  Its main element is the UNESCO Chair scheme, conceived as an instrument to offer to graduate students in developing countries the best opportunities for advanced training and research in essential disciplines for sustainable development.


The priority of the cooperation within the framework of this programme was not, as I stated at a meeting of OECD in September 1992, financial profit obtained through the results of leading research, which is essential in cooperative projects among countries of the same level of industrial or scientific development.  The priority in this case is the transfer of technology and the strengthening of a very solid programme based on solidarity and knowledge sharing.


This was the reason why those who actually conceived the programme insisted on the necessity of reinforcing networks.  The approach was innovative in the sense that priority was given to networking more than to agreements among individual institutions.  In several countries, higher education institutions are unique in that they are able to train researchers and undertake research.  This applies to developing countries such as Brazil, but also to countries such as Spain with its powerful industry.  In other words, any scientific and technological development policy in these countries is necessarily built by reinforcing university institutions.


An internal evaluation of this programme was carried out in 1996 and an external one in 1999.  They showed that an improvement is necessary, especially in terms of coordination.  A number of projects did not develop well but in general, it was considered a success, and this was confirmed by the interest shown by institutions and governments all over the world.


In 1998, it was pointed out that 308 UNESCO Chairs were created and 42 networks organized or supported by the programme.  They were established in all regions.  At the beginning of 1999 the projects were located in over 400 institutions of more than 90 countries.  Today, in 2003, around 600 projects are being developed within the framework of this programme and an international network, GUNI (the Global University Network for Innovation) with a secretariat housed in the Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona and based on five regional networks, stimulates innovative projects to implement the decisions of the World Conference on Higher Education.


When launched, the aims of the programme were the following:


1.     To give a new impetus to the inter-university cooperation agreements and to the transfer and sharing of knowledge, especially in favour of developing countries.

2.     To set up a modality for the rapid transfer/exchange of knowledge and technology in order to reduce the gap between developed and developing countries.

3.     To promote the equal sharing of skills in the service of justice, solidarity and peace through the creation and reinforcement of networks and international cooperation.

4.     To create or reinforce specialized studies and advanced research centres having as their focal points the UNESCO Chairs and functioning through networks, particularly in the South, in order to ensure the progress of knowledge and its application to the solution of development problems, with a view to establishing peace and protecting the environment.

5.     To participate in the academic solidarity movement by mobilizing and supporting the higher education institutions of developed countries in favour of developing countries.

6.     To develop a tool to achieve the objective of internationalisation of higher education through the twinning of higher education institutions and exchange of programme.

7.     To forge higher education relations with the world of work on a new basis, starting from a reciprocal harmonization of action and search for solutions to the pressing problems of humanity.


The United Nations University, for its part, is reaching out to partners in international academia having similar objectives to those of the UNU and working more with universities around the world, as well as through networks such as the International Association of Universities, the International Association of University Presidents, the International Council for Science and the Inter-Academy Panel of Academies of Science Worldwide.


The UNU contributes to the Global Development Network (GDN), a major association of research institutes and think tanks whose goal is to generate and share knowledge related to development.  Together with UNESCO, UNU implements the decision set out in Paragraph 6 (i) of the Priority Action Framework for the Change and Development of Higher Education, adopted by the World Conference on Higher Education, which refers to the creation of a joint UNESCO/UNU Forum on Higher Education.  This has, in fact, become the Global University Innovation Network (GUNI), with headquarters at the Polytechnic University of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.


GUNI stimulates networking through the utilization of new technologies, which is also an important part of the UNU programme.  Two examples are worth mentioning:


a)     The Virtual University Initiative  (VUI) of the UNU Institute for Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS) in Tokyo provides a new means to support and foster on-line education, research and dissemination via the Internet.  The VUI is eventually intended to be a key way for UNU to help bridge the knowledge gap between developed and developing societies.  It will also function as a support system for United Nations agencies around the globe by providing them with the option of transferring their project-based activities to educational and learning modules.

b)    The International Institute for Software Technology (UNU/IIST), located in Macau, China, assists developing countries in building up their research, development and education capacities in the field of software technology.



Projects Related to Information Technologies


When establishing its own cooperation projects, GUS should look at successful examples of cooperation developed both by UNESCO and by the United Nations University.  In the field of new technologies, a good example of a successful project within the framework of the UNITWIN Programme was the UNESCO Chair on Information Technologies, based at the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canarias in the Canary Islands in the nineties.  Its aims were to define the cultural and technological basis with a view to stimulating the development and expansion of information technologies in Northwest Africa (South of Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal).


In addition to stimulate the networking of higher education institutions of these countries, the project was conceived to develop educational technology, dissemination of scientific documentation and collaboration with institutional development.


Since 1995, a UNESCO Chair in Communication was created at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), which soon became a focal point for a global network.  It developed over several years of activities in the fields of communication and international development, national information policies and the right to communications, access to (transfer of) new information and communication technologies (NICT) and their uses, institutional and organizational communication, media development and management, public relations, public affairs and advertising and finally professional training and ethics.  The work was undertaken through closer relations with professional and industrial communities involved in communications.  The network started its operations in Canada and soon expanded to countries such as Bulgaria, Colombia, Spain, Hungary, Lithuania, Uruguay, the Russian Federation, and Brazil.  Internet was used as an instrument to disseminate information, the results of researchers and work carried out by the network.


On its side, United Nations University, as part of its activities within the framework of the follow-up of the World Conference on Higher Education, and with the aim of reinforcing the relevance of higher education institutions, decided to support the efforts being undertaken by strengthening the networks and such innovative programmes as the "Anchieta Programme of Inter-university Cooperation" (PACI), the first project of which - a teacher education course combining traditional presentation methods with distance and virtual education - was elaborated with resources provided by the Cabildo of Gran Canaria (Spain).  It was adopted by the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, which, during the first stage, started to implement it by training 15,000 teachers for the first four classes of basic education.  The intention is to adapt this programme later to other regions and countries that express an interest in it.


The initial matrix of this project is based on the consideration that educational action cannot be fragmented through isolated tasks but should, instead, be articulated as a continuing process of action/reflection in which practice is not separated from theory, since the individuality of the educators and of those who are educated is considered within the framework of the school and the community, as well the educational system and society.


The outcome of this approach should be:


a)     To treat teacher training and pedagogical coordination in an integrated way;

b)    To give emphasis to the process of professionalization;

c)     To incorporate reflections on the present reality of the world, each country and each people (globalisation, unemployment, advances in science and technology, conflicts and peace, etc).


The programme will be developed through seven modules of 454 hours for each semester.  Three areas will be exploited:


a)     knowledge of basic education;

b)    pedagogical methods;

c)     integrative axis.


The elements in this last part constitute the most innovative approach of this project.  It means, in fact, that during the entire process of training, the teachers will have in mind their experience in classes and the social environment in which they develop their functions.  They will not be treated as passive receivers but as people whose experience will be given added value and will serve as a point of departure to improve their professional action and stimulate them so that they can actively participate in the process of improving society and learning how to live together in the twenty-first century.


Among the topics foreseen in this area, the following can be mentioned: contemporary culture, informatics, the cinema, theatre, television, literature, as well as encouraging constant innovation in curriculum, teaching and learning methods.  During this period, the teachers will develop subjects such as education, family and society; education, society and citizenship; the school as a field for the practice of pedagogy; a political-pedagogical project for schools; the organization of the teaching functions; the psycho-social dynamics of classes; education, theory and practice; and the specific nature of teaching.  This approach can also create the conditions for a better application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Education Personnel adopted by Member States (UNESCO and ILO) in 1996.


More recently, during the year 2002, the University of Tampere and the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) obtained from UNESCO the right to create two UNESCO Chairs on e-learning.  These chairs started to work in fields such as educational innovations, knowledge management, and multimedia instruction design.  The fields will be covered through research activities, exchanges among institutions and researchers, professors and students, graduate programmes and extension services.


Both Chairs, which decided to implement joint activities, will be the focal point of networks dealing with the utilization of new technologies for education.  It is expected that the chair in Tampere will play an important function in the consolidation of GUS, the Global University System.



Requirements for Successful Projects


During the evaluation exercise of the UNITWIN Programme (Internal Evaluation of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, D. Chitoran, July 1996), it was observed that successful projects always fulfil certain conditions, such as:


  1. the existence of a clear leadership by a strongly motivated person or a group of people;
  2. institutional support from academic authorities in the establishments where the project is located;
  3. a clear conceptual basis, well-defined objectives and expected results realistically established.


As the UNITWIN Programme is based on solidarity and participation, the projects in which all institutions actively participate in its conception and implementation are assured of success.


In addition, two more elements should be considered:


a)     The 1999 UNDP Human Development Report showed clearly that imbalances in the field of new technologies can, in the short term, lead to a wider gap between rich and poor countries and a higher degree of exclusion among and inside countries.  According to UNDP, "South Asia, home to 23% of the world's people, has less than 1% of Internet users.  To purchase a computer would cost the average Bangladeshi more than eight years' income, the average American, just one month's wage.  English prevails in almost 80% of all websites, yet less than one in 10 people worldwide speak it.  In South Africa, the best-connected African country, many hospitals and about 75% of schools have no telephone line.  Even at the university level, where there is connection, up to 1,000 people can depend on just one terminal.  A single computer is not enough: an entire telecommunications infrastructure is needed."  As a consequence of these imbalances, UNDP states, "this exclusivity is creating parallel worlds.  Those with income, education and - literally - connections have cheap and instantaneous access to information.  The rest are left with uncertain, slow and costly access."


Under these circumstances, we can add that any initiative in this field should have as a priority - when fixing objectives - the reduction of these gaps and positive measures need to be taken to democratise access to the New Information and Communication Technologies, in particular to Internet.


b)    In present times, as mentioned above, there is a tendency towards the commercialisation of higher education that in many countries has become a big business, including through the utilization of Internet.  Full packages of courses, which frequently do not take into consideration either the interests or the cultures of receiving countries, are being disseminated (in fact, they are being sold) all over the world.  This is the reason why the participants in the WCHE clearly expressed their disapproval of any kind of monopoly in the deliverance of contents through new technologies.  This is what is behind declarations such as "Quality in higher education is a multidimensional concept" and "Due attention should be paid to specific institutional, national and regional contexts in order to take into account diversity and to avoid uniformity."





The demonstrations on telemedicine presented by the organizers of the Tampere Conference in 1999, prior to the official activities of this conference, revealed the enormous potential that the digital revolution can provide for the benefit of humanity.  But, as one of the participants mentioned, the problem for the majority of the population is poverty, and all the people and institutions dealing with the development of these technologies must consider it.


Federico Mayor, the Director General of UNESCO, who supported this conference and its objectives, stated that "in the world today, the revolutionary changes brought about by technological developments and the emergence of new information infrastructure cannot be ignored."  But, he added, "technologies are not ends in themselves, they are used to extend opportunities of learning to news groups, to make learning more efficient and flexible, and to enrich the learning processes."


Since the World Conference on Higher Education took place in 1998, the issue of the utilization of the new technology is present everywhere and I am convinced that, when talking about the objectives and institutionalisation of the Global University System, I can only offer the following advice:


1)    It is urgent (and this indeed seems to be the intention) to mobilise all stakeholders linked to this subject and, in particular, the institutions of higher education of all continents.  The elaboration of a feasibility project for analysing the status of the use of NICT in the world and defining an action based on social needs and respecting the diversity of cultures is essential.


2)    The conclusion of the Human Development Report of UNDP should be used as a guide for this action; especially the part on the risk of marginalisation, where it indicates that there "does not have to be a reason for despair." It should be a call to action for:


a)   more connectivity: setting up telecommunications and computer hardware;

b)   more community: focusing on group access, not just individual ownership;

c)   more capacity: building human skills for the knowledge society;

d)   more content: putting local views, news, culture and commerce on the Web;

e)   more creativity: adapting technology to local needs and opportunities;

f)   more collaboration: developing Internet governance to accommodate diverse national needs;

g)   more cash: finding innovative ways to fund the knowledge society;


3)    A positive agenda should be adopted, as suggested by the Secretary General of UNCTAD, for establishing a network system in which higher education institutions play the most important role in disseminating the use of new technologies for the development of all societies, principles that were adopted by the World Conference on Higher Education.



Summary of the World Declaration on Higher Education


1.     Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit, in keeping with Article 26.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  As a consequence, no discrimination can be accepted in granting access to higher education on grounds of race, gender, language, religion or economic, cultural or social distinctions, or physical disabilities.


2.     The core missions of higher education systems (to educate, to train, to undertake research and, in particular, to contribute to the sustainable development and improvement of society as a whole) should be preserved, reinforced and further expanded, namely to educate highly qualified graduates and responsible citizens and to provide opportunities (espaces ouverts) for higher learning and for learning throughout life.  Moreover, higher education has acquired an unprecedented role in present-day society, as a vital component of cultural, social, economic and political development and as a pillar of endogenous capacity building, the consolidation of human rights, sustainable development, democracy and peace, in a context of justice.  It is the duty of higher education to ensure that the values and ideals of a culture of peace prevail.


3.     Higher education institutions and their personnel and students should preserve and develop their crucial functions, through the exercise of ethics and scientific and intellectual rigour in their various activities.  They should also enhance their critical and forward-looking function, through the ongoing analysis of emerging social, economic, cultural and political trends, providing a focus for forecasting, warning and prevention.  For this, they should enjoy full academic autonomy and freedom, while being fully responsible and accountable to society.


4.     Relevance in higher education should be assessed in terms of the fit between what society expects of institutions and what they do.  For this, institutions and systems, in particular in their reinforced relations with the world of work, should base their long-term orientations on societal aims and needs, including the respect of cultures and environment protection.  Developing entrepreneurial skills and initiatives should become major concerns of higher education.  Special attention should be paid to higher education's role of service to society, especially activities aimed at eliminating poverty, intolerance, violence, illiteracy, hunger, environmental degradation and disease, and to activities aiming at the development of peace, through an interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approach.


5.     Higher education is part of a seamless system, starting with early childhood and primary education and continuing through life.  The contribution of higher education to the development of the whole education system and the reordering of its links with all levels of education, in particular with secondary education, should be a priority.  Secondary education should both prepare for and facilitate access to higher education as well as offer broad training and prepare students for active life.


6.     Diversifying higher education models and recruitment methods and criteria is essential both to meet demand and to give students the rigorous background and training required by the twenty-first century.  Learners must have an optimal range of choice and the acquisition of knowledge and know-how should be viewed in a lifelong perspective, based on flexible entry and exit points within the system.


7.     Quality in higher education is a multidimensional concept, which should embrace all its functions and activities: teaching and academic programmes, research and scholarship, staffing, students, infrastructure and the academic environment.  Particular attention should be paid to the advancement of knowledge through research.  Higher education institutions in all regions should be committed to transparent internal and external evaluation, conducted openly by independent specialists.  However, due attention should be paid to specific institutional, national and regional contexts in order to take into account diversity and to avoid uniformity.  There is a perceived need for a new vision and paradigm of higher education, which should be student-oriented.  To achieve this goal, curricula need to be recast so as to go beyond simple cognitive mastery of disciplines and include the acquisition of skills, competencies and abilities for communication, creative and critical analysis, independent thinking and team work in multicultural contexts.


8.     A vigorous policy of staff development is an essential element for higher education institutions.  Clear policies should be established concerning higher education teachers, so as to update and improve their skills, with stimulus for constant innovation in curriculum, teaching and learning methods, and with an appropriate professional and financial status, and for excellence in research and teaching, reflecting the corresponding provisions of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel approved by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1997.


9.     National and institutional decision-makers should place students and their needs at the centre of their concerns and should consider them as major partners and responsible stakeholders in the renewal of higher education.  Guidance and counselling services should be developed, in co-operation with student organisations, to take account of the needs of ever more diversified categories of learners.  Students who do drop out should have suitable opportunities to return to higher education if and when appropriate.  Institutions should educate students to become well-informed and deeply motivated citizens, who can think critically, analyse problems of society, look for solutions to the problems of society, apply them and accept social responsibilities.


10.  Measures must be taken or reinforced to ensure the participation of women in higher education, in particular at the decision-making level and in all disciplines in which they are under-represented.  Further efforts are required to eliminate all gender stereotyping in higher education.  To overcome obstacles and to enhance the access of women to higher education remains an urgent priority in the renewal process of systems and institutions.


11.  The potential of new information and communication technologies for the renewal of higher education by extending and diversifying delivery, and by making knowledge and information available to a wider public should be fully utilised.  Equitable access to these should be assured through international co-operation and support to countries that lack capacities to acquire such tools.  Adapting these technologies to national, regional and local needs and securing technical, educational, management and institutional systems to sustain them should be a priority.


12.  Higher education should be considered as a public service.  While diversified sources of funding, both private and public, are necessary, public support for higher education and research remains essential to ensure a balanced achievement of its educational and social missions.  Management and financing in higher education should be instruments to improve quality and relevance.  This requires the development of appropriate planning and policy-analysis capacities and strategies based on partnerships between higher education institutions and responsible state authorities.  Autonomy to manage internal affairs is necessary, but with clear and transparent accountability to society.


13.  The international dimension of higher education is an inherent part of its quality.  Networking, which has emerged as a major means of action, should be based on sharing, solidarity and equality among partners.  The "brain drain" has yet to be stemmed, since it continues to deprive the developing countries and those in transition, of the high-level expertise necessary to accelerate their socio-economic progress.  Priority should be given to training programmes in the developing countries, in centres of excellence forming regional and international networks, with short periods of specialised and intensive study abroad.


14.  Regional and international normative instruments for the recognition of studies and diplomas should be ratified and implemented, including certification of skills, competencies and abilities of graduates, making it easier for students to change courses, in order to facilitate mobility within and between national systems.


15.  Close partnership amongst all stakeholders - national and institutional policy-makers, governments and parliaments, the media, teaching and related staff, researchers, students and their families, the world of work, community groups - is required in order to set in train a movement for the in-depth reform and renewal of higher education.







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Author Biographical Sketch


Marco Antonio Rodrigues Dias

T.C.D. (Third Cycle Diploma)

Vice President for Administration

Global University System

36, Rue Ernest Renan

92.190 Meudon


Tel: +33-1-45 34 3509


       (UNU office in Paris)

Fax: +33-1-45 34 3509



Special Assistant of the Rector of United Nations University - Director, Division of Higher Education, UNESCO, from October 1981 to February 1999.  General Coordinator of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme, from 1991 to 1999.  Represented the Director-General on the Council of the United Nations University in Tokyo.  He was the Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee for the World Conference on Higher Education (October 1998) and its main organizer.  He studied philosophy and law and has a postgraduate diploma in communication from the University of Paris (Third Cycle -1968).  A former journalist, he was lecturer, departmental head, Dean of extension studies and Vice-President at the University of Brasilia in the 1970s.  He is the author of several books on communication, higher education and politics published in Portuguese, French, Spanish and English.  Among them:  O Fato e a versão do fato-Um jornalista nos anos sessenta [Facts and interpretation of the facts - a journalist in the 1960s] (1993) and Perspectivas de la Educación Superior en el Siglo XXI (Prospects for Higher Education in the XXI Century (2002).  He was granted the "Légion d'honneur" decoration by the French Government in 1999.