UNESCO, OECD guidelines for quality provision in cross-border higher education


05/12/2005 - With more and more people taking university degrees from foreign providers, there is a growing need for safeguards against low-quality services. New Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-border Higher Education jointly developed by UNESCO and OECD aim to meet this need.

Cross-border higher education has grown considerably in the last two decades, thanks to increased mobility of students, academic staff and institutions and new delivery modes such as campuses abroad and Internet-based courses. These developments offer new opportunities for individuals and the societies they live in, but they also raise issues about quality, reliability and recognition. 

In response, the UNESCO/OECD guidelines encourage governments and other stakeholders - including higher education institutions, student bodies, and organisations responsible for quality assurance, accreditation, and academic and professional recognition -- to take action based on three main principles: 

  • Mutual trust and respect among countries and recognition of the importance of international collaboration in higher education.
  • Recognition of the importance of national authority and the diversity of higher education systems.
  • Recognition of the importance of higher education as a means for expressing a country's linguistic and cultural diversity and also for nurturing its economic development and social cohesion.

The guidelines are designed to help students get easy access to reliable information on higher education offered outside their home country or by foreign providers in their home country. They call on governments and other stakeholders to make qualifications more transparent and to provide greater clarity on procedures for their recognition internationally.

This is the first time that the UNESCO and OECD have collaborated in developing guidelines in this way. Although they are not binding, their endorsement by two international organisations grouping more than 190 countries gives them significant force.

Specific recommendations include: 

  • An invitation to governments to establish comprehensive systems of quality assurance and accreditation for cross-border higher education, recognising that this involves both sending and receiving countries. 
  • An invitation to higher education institutions and providers to ensure that the programmes that they deliver across borders and in their home country are of comparable quality and that they also take into account the cultural and linguistic sensitivities of the receiving country.
  • An invitation to student bodies to get involved as active partners at international, national and institutional levels in the development, monitoring and maintenance of the quality provision of cross-border higher education. 

For further information, journalists are invited to contact: at UNESCO, Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic (tel: + 33 1 45 68 08 32); at OECD, Stephan Vincent-Lancrin ( tel:+ 33 1 45 24 92 29).

Figures on student mobility


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