Launch of The Higher Education Task Force Report
Wednesday, March 1, 2000 Omni Shoreham Hotel, Regency
Ballroom, Washington, D.C.
Mamphela Ramphele, Co-chair of the Task Force for Higher Education
Our president did a fantastic job.
If anybody can really put you to shame it's Jim Wolfensohn. He
arrived jet-lagged yesterday. He read the report page to page -
or cover to cover - and remembers the details. So he's really set
the tone for those of us in the Bank who are looking at this issue.
In my case I can only say that a more timely report you couldn't
First, from a personal point of view, it eases my entry into the
bank. You can imagine the shock of leaving a higher education institution
and coming into an institution where you can't use the HE word.
So that word I am pleased to hear. I heard it before the president
said it yesterday because I had the privilege of meeting with my
colleagues in the Bank who are looking into this issue of higher
education. We are all agreed that the work that they have been doing
is laudable work that needs to be strengthened - and we are committed
to doing that.
It is also a timely report from the point of view that this is
the beginning of a new century and as a global community we need
a new beginning. We need to focus even more intently on closing
the gaps between the haves and have-nots - and those gaps are increasingly
being defined by knowledge and its generation, dissemination and
its utilization. In many areas of the lives of people in the developing
world, it is quite clear that the lack of a science culture (which
is deeply embedded in those societies) is a great impediment. In
fact, it is indeed the peril that they face with globalization.
It is our belief that higher education will indeed - and does indeed
- offer the promise that we need, as a global community. It is also
because in this area, more than any other, the issue of the importance
of global action has been demonstrated in a very tragic way when
one thinks about the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and the whole problem
of drug-resistant malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. All
those are happening because, amongst other things, the developing
world doesn't have the capacity to handle and manage these major
health problems. It is unfortunately not only a problem of the developing
world. It is, indeed, a problem of the entire global community,
as we know there are no more boundaries between nations and therefore
in terms of global action we all have to join hands.
The report is also timely because it comes on the heels of the
1998/99 World Development Report which made a case for knowledge,
and was quoted so ably as the light that can enlighten the lives
of so many people. But you can't have light without a switch, and
higher education is that switch which we believe needs to be honest,
and made accessible to all of the people of this world.
I was particularly pleased during the course of this HD week to
participate in discussions around the World Development Report 2000/01
which is in draft form still. It makes the case for international
public goods. We've just heard Ken Prewitt talking about higher
education as a public good. And this notion of international public
goods is a very attractive one. It speaks to the common wealth that
is generated in research, and especially when you look at research
around global pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria etc.
When we talk about international public goods, we are also talking
about the regulatory framework that makes us a more civilized global
village, which can have good governments, and have regimes that
promote not only fair trade, but also sustainable environmental
development. It's important to recognize that these international
public goods cannot simply be generated by the developed world.
The developing world must be an active participant in the generation
of international public goods, and it cannot do so unless it is
enabled by an efficient and high quality higher education system.
It is therefore very important for us as a global community to be
enabling and supporting reform, and strengthening higher education
systems all over the world to help us meet these challenges.
I also believe that we have to look at the fact that you cannot
have international public goods - or any good - without being willing
to make the public investment to generate those goods. We make the
case in this report for not only talking philosophically about higher
education as a public good - or indeed linking it to the WDR report
2000/01 - or just talking about international public goods without
being willing to make the international public investment in generation
of these goods.
I am very delighted to be having the opportunity to join the Bank
at this exciting moment in our history - and as the president said,
what's key to the future success of the human development agenda
is how we mainstream this report, as well as many other ideas that
have come through the UNESCO conference, and the other papers that
were referred to that have come out of the World Bank's own work.
I was very pleased to hear from my colleagues within the Bank that
today the higher education thematic group launched a website which
will put this document on-line, as a major contribution to the thinking
on higher education. There's also been a discussion this morning
with UNESCO to have a joint collaboration, so that we can follow
up the UNESCO World Higher Education conference to include the task
force report as part of the electronic forum that can help us think
more innovatively about higher education and appropriate intervention.
On 14th June the Bank will participate in the UNESCO launch of
this document, again making sure that this is not a one-off launch
that then leaves the document on the shelves of libraries to gather
There has also been a very useful discussion between myself and
my colleagues within the Bank working on higher education. I am
told there will be a workshop of Bank staff looking at this issue
of higher education, in which we will take this report, analyze
it and look at the appropriate interventions that the Bank can make
(together with its many partners) to promote the whole notion of
knowledge management - but also to enter into policy dialogue with
client countries on this topic of what is the appropriate way in
which the Bank can enhance its work in higher education.
The World Bank Institute has focused its attention more and more
on making sure that we become a capacity builder, not just for the
clients out there, but also for ourselves as an institution. It
will incorporate this report in its flagship course on educational
reform as part and parcel of mainstreaming the report. There are
many other activities that will be taking place, including the Halifax
Commonwealth Conference in November, when these issues will be discussed.
There will be regional seminars and workshops all over, and I can
speak as a South African that I, for my sins, am chairing a task
team on the size and shape of higher education in South Africa.
We are looking at how to reconfigure the higher education system
from the legacy of apartheid which created institutions where there
shouldn't have been, or created institutions in a manner that is
not serving the interests of development in South Africa. We need
to break from that past.
This report is going to be required reading for all members of
my task team and I hope that they will be put on the mailing list
- as should be all members of the Council of Higher Education, so
we can be enriched by the insights in this report.
But it is important to reiterate what Mr. Wolfensohn said. We must
take this report as an important benchmark with the issues that
it raises, and we must have a system of monitoring development (through
the people within the Bank who are active - as well as with the
input of partners) with indicators that will be reliable to show
how far we are in terms of reform and improving some of those really
major threats to the success of human development all over the globe.