Guiding Learners in New Higher Education Spaces: What Role for UNESCO?

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

The pace of change in higher education is accelerating. Enrolment rates of around 40-50 % of the relevant age group are now thought necessary for a country to function well in a competitive and interdependent world. In 2004, there were 132 million students (including part time students) enrolled in tertiary education globally. A further massive increase in the demand for higher education can be expected as countries understand its role as a driver of development.// Learners are becoming a more diversified group. Traditional learners from the 18-22 age cohorts, who now have different and changing needs for flexibility and diversity in their studies, are being joined by new types of students.// Life-long learners are a steadily growing group. They come not only from adult populations and working professionals but also from degree holders whose diplomas become obsolete and need updating to guarantee employment. // In response to this rapid growth in demand, there is an increasing diversity of providers. Tertiary education is becoming a marketplace with plenty of dubious providers, bogus institutions and degree mills offering fake or low quality degrees. Distance learning is a preferred mode for many of these dubious providers. Are there efficient ways to alert learners to these and help them make informed choices? How will students find their way around in a myriad of competing offerings? Learner protection and empowerment become crucially important. Assessing the quality of this diverse provision becomes a crucial issue.// UNESCO has launched some initiatives aimed at protecting and guiding learners: the Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-border Higher Education, the Portal of recognised higher education institutions and other tools aimed at alerting students to bogus institutions. It responds to the theme of protecting young people by providing them access to reliable information to guide their life choices. // As part of the debate on cross-border higher education, the presentation will focus on the development of the Portal of recognized higher education institutions and some challenges it raises as a reliable tool for information sharing. The related challenge of degree mills and bogus institutions will also be addressed: how to develop suggestions for effective international practice as one of the responses to this growing problem, especially from the perspective of developing countries. // Paper ID 329

Open and Distance Learning (ODL),Quality Assurance,Cross-Border Education,Higher Education