The core mission of the Institute is to collaborate with and contribute to the development of national higher education systems and institutions in member States, to ensure their sustained relevance, quality, efficiency and equity by promoting regional and international cooperation and the participation of all actors involved.

To be an internationally recognized Institute for the promotion of higher education as a public good and a universal right, in keeping with the UN system of values.

The objectives of IESALC are as follows:
• Promote the right to quality higher education which is relevant, inclusive and equitable for all, by creating awareness in this regard among higher education agents and public opinion in general.

• Prepare and disseminate studies on higher education, particularly of a comparative nature, with data to inform the decision-making process for the design of national and institutional public policies.

• Contribute, through training programs and in coordination with UNESCO Chairs, to capacity building for the analysis and design of better public and institutional policies between political, governmental and institutional decision makers, and higher education analysts and researchers.

• Support governments, organizations, networks and institutions in the formulation of public policies, reform and improvement plans, and their implementation whether in an advisory capacity or through direct intervention as an agency.