Navigating national plans for higher education across the world
Understanding how countries around the world strategically plan and steer their higher education (HE) systems can greatly benefit policymakers to improve their own HE planning initiatives. In its third Policy Insight, the HE Policy Observatory explores this topic across 146 countries, differentating countries that adopted HE plans tailored specifically for this sector from those that integrated HE sections within multisectoral plans (e.g., multi-level education plans, national development plans), and those that did not adopt such strategies.
The analysis reveals that nearly 90% of countries worldwide have embraced national plans to guide their HE systems, emphasizing the importance governments place on HE by establishing detailed goals and measures. Significant differences remain between regions and income groups. While countries in the Arab States and North America and Western Europe are more likely to rely on “dedicated HE plans”, countries in Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa predominant use “HE sections” integrated in multisectoral plans to steer their HE systems. The integration of higher education in multisectoral plans facilitates synergies across various sectors and an alignment with diverse national priorities. This insight also reveals that countries that are the more prone to rely on “dedicated HE plans” are those with the highest levels of income.
These results are an important first step in the exploration of what works – and what doesn’t – in HE system planning. More research is needed to identify the key features of HE plans that drive successful outcomes. Policymakers could also greatly benefit from collaborating internationally and learning from successful models to fully leverage the benefits of planning for building accessible and performing HE systems.
Check out the UNESCO IESALC Policy Insight on the types of national plans steering HE here.