We, the participants of the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, held from 5 to 8 July 2009 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, recognising the abiding relevance of the outcomes and Declaration of the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education and taking into account the outcomes and recommendations of the six regional conferences (Cartagena de Indias, Macau, Dakar, New Delhi, Bucharest and Cairo) as well as the debates and outcomes of this world conference, 'The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development', adopt the present communique.
As a public good and a strategic imperative for all levels of education and as the basis for research, innovation and creativity, higher education must be a matter of responsibility and economic support of all governments. As emphasised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit' (Article 26, paragraph 1).
The current economic downturn may widen the gap in access and quality between developed and developing countries as well as within countries, presenting additional challenges to countries where access is already restricted.
At no time in history has it been more important to invest in higher education as a major force in building an inclusive and diverse knowledge society and to advance research, innovation and creativity.
The past decade provides evidence that higher education and research contribute to the eradication of poverty, to sustainable development and to progress towards reaching the internationally agreed upon development goals, which include the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA). The global education agenda should reflect these realities.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF HIGHER EDUCATION
1. Higher Education as a public good is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially governments.
2. Faced with the complexity of current and future global challenges, higher education has the social responsibility to advance our understanding of multifaceted issues, which involve social, economic, scientific and cultural dimensions and our ability to respond to them. It should lead society in generating global knowledge to address global challenges, inter alia food security, climate change, water management, intercultural dialogue, renewable energy and public health.
3. Higher education institutions, through their core functions (research, teaching and service to the community) carried out in the context of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, should increase their interdisciplinary focus and promote critical thinking and active citizenship. This would contribute to sustainable development, peace, wellbeing and the realization of human rights, including gender equity.
4. Higher education must not only give solid skills for the present and future world but must also contribute to the education of ethical citizens committed to the construction of peace, the defense of human rights and the values of democracy.
5. There is need for greater information, openness and transparency regarding the different missions and performance of individual institutions.
6. Autonomy is a necessary requirement for fulfilling institutional missions through quality, relevance, efficiency, transparency and social responsibility.
ACCESS, EQUITY AND QUALITY
7. In the past ten years, tremendous efforts have been made to improve access and ensure equity. This effort must continue. Access alone is, however, not enough. Much more needs to be done. Efforts must be made to ensure the success of learners.
8. Expanding access has become a priority in the majority of Member States and increasing participation rates in higher education are a major global trend. Nevertheless, great disparities persist, constituting a major source of inequality. …