Equity in access and success in higher education at crossroads – new report shows
A new collection of articles from 17 leading figures in the field of higher education equity from across the world argues that we are at a critical moment where access to higher education for those from minority and disadvantaged majority groups is concerned. The articles, covering the impact of the pandemic on students in Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil, Australia, Asia, Austria, Thailand, Ireland and the USA show that there is a real risk that inequalities in higher education access will become further entrenched as we emerge from the pandemic without concerted, collaborative action by policymakers and university leaders.
‘Perspectives on the challenges to access and equity in higher Education across the world in the context of COVID’ draws its contributors from the World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) 24 event on November 17th 2020. World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) is the platform to raise global awareness around inequalities in access and success in higher education (HE), and act as a catalyst for international, regional and local action. As well as those working in individual countries the collection includes articles from the World Bank, the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
This collection shows how the shift to digital delivery poses huge challenges for learners from low income and other minority background especially in small states, how it has forced such learners out of higher education as they have domestic responsibilities and how the pressure on governments has constrained the support they can provide for equity. However, the collection also describes how new initiatives such as the Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) led by the ACU is extending access to higher education in east Africa and how governments such as that in Austria and institutions across continents are increasing their commitment to this agenda.
As the editor of the Perspectives publication and Director of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) UK who convene World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED), stated: ‘This important collection shows that if we to avoid progress in equitable access and success in higher education spiralling backwards, then it is essential we work together across borders connecting universities and policymakers together’.
In the chapter entitled “Higher education must be on the international education agenda,” Francesc Pedró, Director of UNESCO IESALC, stresses the importance of public investment in higher education and its documented contribution to socio-economic development through health and civic outcomes, direct effect on the labour market and its strong contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, Pedró states that “developing countries need to enlarge their professional and scientific capacities, both in the public and private sectors, to generate and manage their avenues to socio-economic development; again, no other sub-sector is better positioned to do this than higher education”. To conclude invites to a more thoughtful approach to consider what the effects of not embedding higher education in the international development agenda could potentially be, not only for economic recovery and development but also for equity in post-pandemic higher education.
- There will an online launch event on for ‘Perspectives on the challenges to access and equity in higher Education across the world in the context of COVID’ on the 24th of September from 2.00pm to 3.30pm GMT. To register please go to: https://worldaccesshe.com/launch-event-perspectives-on-the-challenges-to-access-and-equity-in-higher-education-across-the-world/
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