From Peril to Promise: how higher education can
A report of the British Council Seminar held at Bailbrook House,
19-23 March 2002
"On s'engage et puis on voit."
The Task Force on Higher Education and Society was convened by
UNESCO and the World Bank in 1998 to answer three main questions:
- What is the role of higher education in supporting and enhancing
the process of economic and social development?
- What are the major obstacles that higher education faces in
- How can these obstacles best be overcome?
The Task Force report, 'Higher Education in Developing Countries
- Peril and Promise', articulated the case for higher education,
as one of many important development priorities.
Developing countries need higher education - and they need it increasingly.
But they face significant obstacles as they try to improve both
the quantity and the quality of the education they provide.
The report provided a powerful diagnosis of the problems facing
higher education. It left open, however, the challenge of developing
visions and strategies for implementation in specific developing
The British Council seminar, 'From Peril to Promise: how higher
education can deliver', aimed to continue the Task Force's work
and focus in particular on the practicalities of higher education
reform. By building networks, disseminating knowledge and sharing
experiences between countries, the seminar aimed to break new ground
in the search for effective higher education reform.
The seminar brought together 36 policy makers, educationalists,
donors and higher education experts from 21 countries. The format
was deliberately open and interactive, designed to emphasize the
perspective of the delegates, and use their experience to develop
The program combined presentations from delegates, extended plenary
sessions, and working groups designed to focus on the specific challenges
At the beginning of the seminar, participants considered the big
picture of higher education reform, assessing the challenges at
international, national and institutional level. They moved on to
look at the reform of higher education systems, and then honed in
on reform at institution level. Finally, the funding of higher education
reform was considered in a session with representatives from the
World Bank and Dutch and Swedish donor agencies.
Part one of this report provides a brief background to the Task
Force report. Part two discusses efforts to initiate the reform
process. Key considerations once a reform process is underway are
addressed in part three, while part four examines the role of donors.
Finally, the concluding section presents an initiative instigated
by seminar participants aimed at building a higher education reform
One: The Task Force on Higher Education and Society
Task Force Co-Chair Henry Rosovsky opened the seminar with a summary
of the Task Force's work.
The Task Force, he said, makes a simple point: "Higher education
has never been more important to all nations than it is right now."
By contributing to governance, culture, democracy and the spirit
of enterprise, higher education creates valuable public goods.
The value of these public goods is increasing, meanwhile. Globalisation
is encouraging both competition and co-operation across borders,
with well-run societies attaining significant advantages. The knowledge
economy, meanwhile, values knowledge over more traditional physical
Methods of evaluating the benefits of higher education have traditionally
been quite narrow, neglecting higher education's role in generating
public goods. The rate of return to the individual has generally
been measured in terms of higher salaries, with only the increased
taxes these salaries incur counted as a public benefit.
By this measure, investment in higher education delivers significantly
smaller public and private returns than investment in primary and
secondary education. Donors have therefore tended to downplay the
importance of advanced education and, in some cases, have advised
governments to withdraw funding from the sector.
Demand for tertiary education, however, has continued to rise.
In part, there is a simple demographic effect at work. As more children
are educated to secondary level, so will more want to continue their
studies. However, the increase in demand is made more dramatic by
the fact that a growing proportion of those leaving secondary schools
want to undertake further studies. All over the world, students,
and their families, understand that the value of advanced education
is continuing to rise.
Rising demand has been met by overworked and underfunded institutions,
but also by a burgeoning private sector. As Professor Rosovsky noted,
the private sector has a valuable contribution to make, but it has
its limits. It tends to be strong on subjects with a rapid and high
economic rate of return to students, but it is less successful at
delivering public goods.
"Those responsible for the public interest," Professor
Rosovsky argued, "should not sit back and let markets rule."
Instead, private institutions should be integrated into a national
higher education system, where the sum of the contribution of different
institutions is considerably more than the parts.
A systems perspective places the state in the role of supervisor,
rather than manager, of higher education. In this role, it can set
boundaries, regulate quality and ensure access for disadvantaged
groups. Perhaps most importantly, it can sponsor debate about what
kind of higher education is needed to meet national needs.
The Task Force focused on two areas of provision that are often
neglected. First, it argued for the need to develop scientific research
and training, which is weak in many developing countries. The developing
world needs scientific capacity to create new technologies and to
adapt existing technologies to their own problems. Currently, however,
the "knowledge gap" is growing wider, with rich countries
accounting for over 80 per cent of scientific papers published and
over 90 per cent of patents granted.
Second, the Task Force discussed at length the benefits offered
by general education, which provides individuals with vital skills
in critical thinking, creativity, and communication. General education
is not relevant for all students, but it is certainly important
that some students receive this kind of broad training. General
education offers a good preparation for knowledge-based careers,
encourages attitudes that facilitate lifelong learning, and promotes
citizenry and leadership.
In the European system, general education was traditionally provided
in secondary schools. This model is of limited relevance to developing
countries, where secondary schools do not have the resources to
provide consistently high standards across very broad curricula.
Higher education systems therefore have a responsibility to ensure
adequate general education provision. Designing relevant courses
is a significant challenge, offering further opportunity for national
debate around such questions as "what is an educated person?"
and "to what extent do educational needs differ from country
Winning the case for higher education is only the start of the
reform process. Longstanding problems include inadequately trained
faculty; poor pay requiring faculty to take other jobs and therefore
spend too little time in their own institutions; the historic emphasis
on rote learning; and corruption in the selection of faculty and
administration. Inadequate facilities and student unrest and strikes
have also impeded the education of many.
"A physician who can diagnose but has no solution isn't all
that useful," Professor Rosovsky concluded. "The Task
Force report diagnosed - we now need to move on to solutions."
The seminar therefore continued to discuss a renewed push for reform.
Two: embarking on reform
The challenges facing higher education systems were illustrated
by the experience of seminar participants. Their efforts suggested
that many problems are shared from one country to another. The range
of potential solutions varies much more greatly, however.
Reports from many countries highlighted the problems caused as
demand rises, but available resources do not. Poland, for example,
saw a 275 per cent increase in its higher education population between
1990 and 2000. Over the same period, the budget for the sector grew
by just 20 per cent. Politicians continue, however, to see higher
education as a tool for decreasing unemployment in the short term,
as young people are sent to college rather than directly into the
Thailand also faces the problem of expanding demand, at the same
time as the "digital divide" is growing. Within countries
and even within cities, lack of connectivity is widening the gap
between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. Globalisation offers economic
opportunities to Asia, but it also raises questions of the extent
to which higher education systems can retain Asian values and promote
Many higher education systems must grapple with the question of
which language they should work in. In Africa, for example, English
is the lingua franca of 95 per cent of institutions, effectively
excluding non-English speakers from higher education and threatening
the survival of some indigenous cultures and languages. In India,
too, where there are 18 official languages, knowledge of English
is nevertheless essential for those wishing to succeed at higher
education institutions. Developing education in other languages
raises fundamental questions, as Pakistan has discovered. There,
Urdu-medium institutions may have heightened barriers between English
and non-English speakers.
Political interference and corruption were also reported from many
countries. In India, for example, there have been attempts to "saffronise"
higher education and interpret history in a way that will appease
Hindu nationalists. Efforts have been made to make access more equitable
and transparent, however, with a legally mandated quota system ensuring
greater participation of those from lower castes and economically
The problem of attracting highly-qualified faculty is, if anything,
becoming more pressing. A global market for the best academic talent
is developing, increasing the cost of employing faculty. Brain drain,
whereby a country's most talented individuals are offered opportunities
to continue their studies and careers abroad, poses a continuing
threat to teaching quality and a challenge to those attempting to
make the political case for the difference higher education can
make to a country.
In general, seminar participants deal with the problems of either
higher education systems or institutions every day of their working
life. As a result, theirs was generally a pragmatic vision, based
on the need to build on success, rather than continually describe
(and become overwhelmed by) problems. Initial reform efforts in
many countries have been extremely promising and there are isolated
success stories even where the picture is at its most bleak. One
of the seminar's major successes was that, by allowing seminar participants
to pool experience, some underlying reform principles began to emerge.
Participants enthusiastically endorsed the Task Force's emphasis
on higher education systems. A vision for reform should start by
assessing a country's needs and then developing a typology of institutions
to fit those needs. A systems perspective allows for the effective
differentiation of institutions, with each type of institution,
from technical college to university, having a clearly defined purpose
and strategic objectives. The system was seen as a much more relevant
concept than the higher education pyramid. Quality is important
throughout the system - and different types of institution can make
an equally valuable contribution to their students and society as
The process of reform is best initiated once an overall vision
has been formulated. Delegates from many different countries testified
to their experience of the reform process. In particular, two models
of reform were outlined and discussed. In Pakistan, a process has
been instigated as a direct reaction to the Task Force's work. Higher
education reform in South Africa, meanwhile, has been ongoing since
the end of apartheid, offering both parallels and contrasts with
the Pakistani experience.
Tariq Banuri, Secretary of the Pakistan Steering Committee on Higher
Education, presented the Pakistan case study, situating current
reform efforts within a history of similar reform initiatives. He
characterised two types of reform effort. The first was outcome-driven,
relying on speed and surprise to overcome resistance to change.
In contrast, the second emphasized process, aiming to reach consensus
about the way forward.
The Pakistan Task Force has taken a third approach, adopting an
entrepreneurial model, which thinks about reform in terms of enterprise.
The model seeks to promote and encourage "social entrepreneurs"
and focus on "strategic entry points" into the reform
process. These agents of change can be found both within and without
the higher education sector, but they are often isolated. If brought
together, they can coalesce into effective "communities of
In this model, no actor has an absolute veto over the reform process.
It is possible, for example, to initiate reform without government
support, though not all goals can be achieved (or even attempted)
until the government can be persuaded to sign up. Civil will, in
other words, can be exploited where there is political apathy or
incapacity. Equally, some areas of the higher education system can
initiate reform in the expectation that the reform process will
spread as success is demonstrated. Creating and promoting "early
wins" is particularly important for encouraging others to take
up the gauntlet.
In Pakistan's case, the reform process was initiated as a result
of two conferences organised to explore the relevance of the Task
Force report to the situation in Pakistan. Government support quickly
followed these conferences, with the government setting up the Pakistan
Task Force to conduct a detailed study of higher education in Pakistan.
In January 2002, it presented its findings, arguing for "the
transformation of our institutions of higher education into world-class
seats of learning, equipped to foster high-quality education, scholarship
and research, to produce enlightened citizens with strong moral
and ethical values."
Pakistan's President has now accepted the report and recommended
the establishment of a steering group to guide implementation. Four
teams have been set up to address areas where the Task Force believes
change can be readily achieved. Three priorities are to promote
financial disclosure; increase the professionalism of higher education
management; and create a community to address curriculum reform.
The fourth team will attempt to create a National Higher Education
Commission to support and nurture the process.
Civil society, and in particular higher education institutions
themselves, have also played a key role in initiating higher education
reform in South Africa. However, as both Piyushi Kotecha, CEO of
South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association, and Saleem
Badat of the South African Council on Higher Education emphasised,
South Africa's democratic system has had a major focus on the need
for consultation and building support across society given the experience
of apartheid and the need to replace a system based on structured
inequality with a new social order. In a democratic environment,
building vibrant links between government, civil society and higher
education institutions is crucial if a national drive for reform
is to be set in motion.
As Saleem Badat explained, in drawing up a White Paper on higher
education, the goal was to reach "sufficient consensus"
among stakeholders. As in Pakistan, "champions of reform"
are needed and their capacity must be enhanced. However, the "spaces"
within which these champions can operate are constrained by the
needs of a democracy. They must always work to develop a "sufficient
consensus" for their reform strategies and be prepared to consider
trade-offs as they pursue conflicting, but equally desirable, objectives.
The South African higher education system has considerable strengths,
with many institutions providing a high quality service. However,
it faces many challenges in achieving its 'overall goal' of transformation
to a system characterised by "quality and excellence, equity,
responsiveness and effective and efficient provision, governance
and management." According to Badat, "dense policy communities"
are needed to undertake what he sees as a "massive undertaking."
"Policy formation, planning and implementation are not neutral,
technical, cost-benefit exercises," Badat argues. "They
are deeply implicated with values and social goals." Reform
will fail if it neglects to work with an awareness of political
imperatives, macroeconomic constraints, and the capacity of the
system to undertake reform.
The Pakistani and South African experiences share many common factors
and encouraged participants to explore what principles underpin
the reform process. These principles are explored in the next section.
Three: key considerations in the reform process
Five major factors emerged as central to the reform process:
- the centrality of governance
- the importance improving educational quality
- the related issue of increasing access to higher education
- curricular reform
Seminar participants provided many examples of successful and innovative
attempts to tackle these issues.
Governance emerged as perhaps the most important concern, lending
credence to the Task Force's claim that "it is difficult to
exaggerate the importance of good governance for higher education,
with a significant number of those we consulted believing it to
be the key issue."
Higher education institutions vary according to the quality of
their leadership, as well as in response to external factors. Problems
include faculty reward and appraisal, inadequate financial management,
lack of transparency, corruption and a lack of infrastructure.
Participants highlighted the fundamental differences between higher
education institutions and other public institutions. Whereas in
other sectors, decision-making power resides at the top of the institution,
much of the power in higher education lies among students and faculty.
Reforms can seldom be imposed, as those who are affected usually
have plentiful scope to refuse.
Higher education, moreover, is an intensely political arena, and
the impact of the wider country-level governance environment cannot
be overestimated. Institutions have a role as social critics and
ask questions that cannot be asked elsewhere. Student politics can
have a major impact on how institutions are run. Governance structures
are seldom free from political influence, with appointments often
With limited resources, reform efforts are constrained by the pressures
placed on those attempting to implement change. In many cases, overburdened
reformers have to deal with finance, administration, curricular
reform, and many other tasks while also carrying out research and
In response to this, Zimbabwe Open University has attempted a division
of labour by installing one Pro-Vice Chancellor to handle strategic
planning, finances, marketing and funding issues, and another to
manage the academic side. The University of Zambia, meanwhile, has
set up an International Relations Office, to deal with and report
to donors and other international agencies, and free up teachers'
time for teaching.
Further suggestions for improving governance highlighted the need
for public accountability. Key meetings, it was suggested, should
be open to the public, while the mobilization of civil society groups
can provide a voice for higher standards. Where the political and
civil will exists for higher education reform, higher public sector
salaries may help to reduce the incentives for corruption. Training
in governance for those on decision-making bodies can also play
a vital role.
The second major issue discussed was the quality of higher education
delivery. With ever-expanding student numbers, quality becomes increasingly
difficult to monitor and control. One participant neatly summed
up the problem as "massification versus customisation."
The uncontrolled growth of the private sector exacerbates the problem,
as a proportion of new institutions sacrifice quality in the pursuit
Government, civil society and higher education professionals all
have a role to play in improving quality. Many countries have set
up national accreditation committees or commissions for higher education
to review academic and administrative performance. Poland, for example,
has established a National Accreditation Committee, driven by civil
society, and India's National Accreditation Council fulfils a similar
Brazil, meanwhile, has used a national exam to improve standardisation
between institutions. All higher education students take this exam
(which currently covers twenty subjects, with new subjects added
every year) just before graduation and their results are used to
grade each institution and course. Although the individual performance
of students is not made public, full information on the performance
of institutions and courses is published every year. The government
can close down consistent underperformers.
Protecting quality, however, cannot be accomplished at the expense
of efforts to increase access. Developing countries are attempting
to expand higher education to meet growing demand. Many, if not
most, are also keen to target groups that have traditionally been
excluded from higher education. In many countries, subsidies for
higher education have traditionally benefited the wealthy - a major
factor behind higher education's current elitist image.
It was widely agreed that the goal of "equity and opportunity"
should be at the heart of higher education reform, with standardised
selection mechanisms ensuring that non-academic criteria are eliminated
from the admissions process.
A variety of strategies were discussed that create opportunities
for disadvantaged groups. Institutions offering 2-year courses,
for example, can provide an important entry point into higher education.
Allowing students to take time out between academic years and permitting
them to move between universities can also create valuable flexibility.
Perhaps most important are innovative financing mechanisms, which
offer preferential treatment for the socially and economically disadvantaged.
Several participants, however, pointed out that access for disadvantaged
groups was not sufficient. In many cases, ongoing support is needed
to help students cope with the demands placed on them once they
have entered a higher education institution. Such support may, depending
on the student involved, be academic, financial or psychological.
Kamal Ahmad's presentation of the proposed Asian University for
Women, to be based in Bangladesh, provided one example of an initiative
attempting to increase access. It is an attempt to redress the gender
imbalance in Asian higher education by providing women with a high
quality liberal education. Pakistan's Fatima Jinnah Women's University,
meanwhile, goes beyond the education of students by also training
women working in the University in Higher Education Management.
Distance learning, meanwhile, provides another route for promoting
access to higher education. Distance learning provides opportunities
to people who lack the means to travel to residential higher education
institutions. It also gives women who cannot or do not wish to leave
home the chance to study.
Zimbabwe Open University has followed the example of the UK's Open
University in providing foundation courses for students who need
to gain new skills in order to enter university. It offers lower
tuition fees than traditional universities and has contributed to
a significant increase in capacity in Zimbabwe's higher education
system. Many of its students are receiving an education that would
not have been available to them before its foundation just three
Primrose Kurasha, the university's Pro-Vice Chancellor, explained
that her institution offered "dual mode" delivery, aiming
to ensure that the distance learning experience was as rich as possible.
Written modules are supplemented by monthly face-to-face meetings
with tutors in the University's regional centres. This allows for
personal contact between students and their tutors, and better monitoring
of student progress.
William Chanda, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia, reported
that his institution's distance learning courses took a similar
approach. Although it is growing rapidly, the distance-learning
cohort is currently smaller than the residential one, allowing all
distance learners to be brought onto the University during the summer
vacation. As in Zimbabwe, the emphasis is on ensuring that distance
education does not become a second-class offering.
Curricular reform is also closely linked to quality improvements.
Curricula in many areas are dated and responsive neither to domestic
needs nor to the demands of the global economy. Private institutions
tend to concentrate their resources on subjects such as business
and information technology, while public sector curricula do not
keep up with changing social contexts and changing teaching methods.
While some tenets apply across countries, such as the limiting impacts
of early specialization, local context must be taken into consideration
on many other curricular issues.
Successful curricular development invariably requires the development
of a reform community within, or across, institutions. Faculty support
is vital for most higher education initiatives, but it is of paramount
importance that faculty members have belief in the curriculum they
teach. Skilled consensus-building work is therefore needed. Faculty
members need to understand the options before them and the approaches
taken by other institutions and national systems. Most importantly,
they need to understand what reforms will deliver to students, and
to be convinced that the costs of change will be outweighed by eventual
The Task Force's recommendations on general education caused considerable
discussion among seminar participants. The Task Force report claimed
that it was "not advocating the universal application of a
particular curriculum or teaching method across different cultures.
Instead, it is recommending that each country design its own general
curriculum to fit the structure and values of its higher education
The task of designing such a curriculum is an intriguing one. It
poses many questions that have much wider relevance. Many participants
expressed the belief that even addressing the question "what
makes an educated person?" could be a potential catalyst for
wider curricular reform.
The financing of higher education was the final major reform issue
discussed. At present, most developing world public higher education
institutions are either free to students or charge fees that are
well below the cost of tuition. With demand continuing to increase,
however, some participants believed that this situation is unsustainable
and, to the extent that wealthy students are subsidised, inequitable.
The seminar working group on financing came to two opposing conclusions:
that all students should pay for their education, but none should
be turned away on account of financial need. They proposed that
all students should be invoiced for the full cost of tuition. Even
if they ended up paying a small proportion of this bill, it would
increase understanding of the price of education and the subsidy
provided from the public purse.
Loans were discussed as a financing option that can provide wider
access to education than grants. Loan schemes are complicated in
developing countries by the complexity of creating semi-commercial
or non-commercial structures. Commercial loans are often out of
reach for the poorest students, who lack security to provide as
guarantee. The working group suggested that loan schemes should
learn from the experiences of the micro credit movement, with guarantees
provided at community level, allowing a succession of students to
receive an advanced education.
Institutions must justify extra financing by demonstrating their
effective use of existing funding. Better use of physical resources,
such as land and classrooms, contributes significantly to financial
efficiency. Improved financial disclosure, meanwhile, is essential
for instilling confidence in institutional management. In many countries,
legal requirements for disclosure are outdated. Relevant financial
indicators must be developed and systems instigated so that they
can be generated regularly and accurately.
International donors have an important role to play in the financing
of higher education systems. Much of the final day was devoted to
assessing the role of international assistance organisations and
this forms the subject of the final section of this report.
Four: international support for the reform process
Many participants felt that there was a need for a fundamental
shift in the balance of power between donor organisations and recipient
Zulfiqar Gilani, Vice Chancellor of the University of Peshawar,
for instance, suggested that donors should only be involved in higher
education once developing countries had finalised their vision and
strategy for reform. A process where developing countries set targets,
and elicit donor support where required, was broadly supported by
This approach accords with the policies of many donors. The Department
for International Development, for example, is moving towards making
the Poverty Reduction Strategy Process the key aid instrument. It
is also continuing to develop the Sector-Wide Approach, whereby
education is treated on a holistic basis, with funding directed
at the whole education sector in a country.
The World Bank's policies are similar, although the Bank seems
to be part way through a notable shift towards a more favourable
attitude to higher education. Toby Linden, Senior Education Specialist
at the World Bank, represented the World Bank and presented its
draft paper - 'Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges
for Tertiary Education'.
According to Linden, the growing importance of knowledge for social
and economic progress has led to a reappraisal of higher education,
which has a vital role in the "creation, dissemination and
application" of knowledge. Linden outlined the importance of
tertiary education to both local knowledge generation and the adaptation
of existing global knowledge to local challenges. He also alluded
to tertiary education's role in strengthening the entire education
system and the synergies between all forms of education.
Higher education systems in developing countries are currently
ill equipped to face the new challenges. The state therefore needs
to set up an "enabling framework" to encourage the development
of tertiary institutions. At the same time, Linden continued, the
World Bank can assist by drawing on its international experience,
mobilizing resources, bringing key national stakeholders into the
process and providing exposure to the relevant international experience.
Bank involvement would be based on the need for change in a country,
a willingness to reform, and knowledge of the sector.
Seminar participants welcomed what they saw as the Bank's change
of focus, but many expressed concerns that its relative lack of
involvement in the sector in recent years might have left it without
a sufficient knowledge base from which to plan interventions in
the future. Participants asked what knowledge base the Bank would
use for furthering its role and deciding whether countries fit the
criteria for involvement. Some questioned whether the Bank had any
legitimacy in higher education after neglecting the sector for so
long. There were penetrating questions about where the Bank's comparative
advantage lay and where it could most effectively act.
There were calls for the Bank to support regional reform networks
and networks of social entrepreneurs. Toby Linden expressed the
Bank's willingness to support regional co-operation, but added that
the Bank must avoid supplanting regional agencies and that it is
required to lend to national governments.
Linden also argued that the Bank is a far less monolithic organisation
than it may appear from the outside. Country strategies are formulated
on a country-by-country basis, with policy not centrally determined.
"Good practices" in one country can be useful in helping
another make policy choices, but need to be adapted for implementation.
In his conclusion, Linden noted that the World Bank, like everybody
else, is trying to find its way through these constantly changing
issues. It does not, he added, have all the answers.
Representatives from other international agencies the Netherlands
Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic),
the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International
Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) joined the debate on donor
policy. The discussion revolved around the nature of aid or loans
on offer; the information base on which donors made decisions; and
the burden that reporting requirements placed on organisations within
The production of a common reporting standard was described as
a potential global public good, and one that donors could usefully
contribute to developing. Currently, much of the energy of change
agents can be taken up writing proposals for assistance, managing
funds and then writing annual reports on how they have been used.
Standardised procedures would lead to the much more effective use
Funding research on the impact of higher education and higher education
reform is another area where donors can make an impact. Although
there is widespread agreement that current rate of return analysis
is inadequate, there is currently a dearth of ideas about what can
best replace it. Robust research about the nature, and scale, of
the public and private benefits from higher education would be of
great import in continuing to build high-level support for higher
education reform in developing countries.
There is also a need for evidence on the reform process, especially
work that goes beyond case studies to analysis of what has worked
and why. Action research would be of immediate value to other higher
educational reformers. UNESCO is currently planning a new higher
education research forum and it is hoped that the work they sponsor
will begin to fill these gaps.
The session on donor perspectives was characterised by a sense
of some division between international agencies and developing countries.
Mouzinho Mario of Mozambique's Universidade Eduardo Mondiane, responded
to this, suggesting that, "we are partners in the process of
change." However, most delegates believed that it is essential
that the South is the leading partner. Networks of reform must develop
between developing countries, which have the most to learn from
each other's experiences.
Over the course of the conference, a proposal to launch such a
network took shape and this forms the core of the concluding section
of this report.
The South-South Higher Education Reform Network is a tangible output
from the Peril to Promise seminar, representing an attempt to develop
a "dense policy community" across developing countries.
Twenty-three participants agreed to act as founder members of the
network, with Tariq Banuri agreeing to facilitate the network's
foundation. Proposed activities for the network range from meetings
to pooling information to advising national governments on the reform
The Network adopted the following draft statement:
SOUTH-SOUTH HIGHER EDUCATION REFORM NETWORK (SSHERN)
We are a group of individuals with an interest in and commitment
to the improvement of the systems of higher education in developing
countries, as a means of enabling these countries to consolidate
democratic governance, empower hitherto marginalized groups, promote
equity and social cohesion, and contribute to economic growth.
We believe that a central component of the strategy to promote
such change is to create, nurture, and strengthen communities
of change at institutional, national and global levels. Many of
us are involved in a variety of networks of this type at national
and/or institutional levels. We believe that the time has come
to bring together a community of change at the global level as
Accordingly, we agree today to join together in founding the
South-South Higher Education Reform Network (SSHERN). We will
jointly draft a vision statement and principles of operation for
the network in order to invite a broad spectrum of stakeholders
from around the world to join the network.
The objectives of the network are to facilitate mutual learning
about processes of change in the systems of higher education in
developing countries, promote research, and function as a cradle
of social entrepreneurship and a touchstone of ideas. A related
objective is to cultivate shared norms of behaviour and standards
of conduct for institutions of higher education, scholars and
teachers, policy makers and financial donors. Finally, the network
will organise conferences, workshops and symposia.
We are mindful of other initiatives being taken up at regional
and international levels, especially by UNESCO, and expect a close
cooperation between the SSHERN and these initiatives.
The network is a vehicle for cure, rather than diagnosis. As such
it represents a natural - and worthy - successor to the Task Force
on Higher Education.
Reflecting on this fact, Henry Rosovsky closed the meeting, quoting
a 1942 speech by Winston Churchill: "This is not the end. It
is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end
of the beginning."
We have moved from the Task Force report, titled Peril and Promise,
to the seminar, titled Peril to Promise.
It is now up to the seminar participants, Rosovsky concluded, to
turn promise into achievement.
- Henry Rosovsky
- David Bloom
- David Steven
Email Mark Weston