Global Higher Education: Current Trends, Future Perspectives

GHEF 2009 is a fitting platform to critically discuss issues, current trends, future perspectives and work towards global higher education systems that are relevant and sustainable while serving the common cause of humanity.

The central theme in the current development of global Higher Education (HE) is the issue of a unitary model of HE. In this regard, the unitary model referred to is the American/European model of HE, which is viewed as the current dominant model of HE. Whilst this is the case, the suitability of the model and its accompanying philosophy for expanding and developing HE in the South has been questioned by HE providers and stakeholders. This is mainly because a unitary model signals uniformity which challenges the current HE climate that values diversity, recognises local identity, knowledge and practices, encourages regional HE integration and promotes greater accessibility for all. Indeed, the inclination towards one model may be seen as a regression in the global HE aspiration of regional harmonisation. These are important concerns not just in global HE scenario but also in regional development. Another disturbing development in HE, following the trend to commodify HE, is the use of global ranking of HE institutions as a supposed means to determine the quality of institutions, a process which can have a serious impact on HE in the South. Finally, HE cannot be oblivious of the current downturn in the global economy, which inevitably will affect higher education in all parts of the world in many ways, from funding of the sector to recruitment of students to assistance from donor/development agencies.

GHEF 2009, being a global forum, is a fitting platform to critically discuss these myriad of issues, look at current trends, aim at considering future perspectives and work towards global higher education systems that are relevant and sustainable while serving the common cause of humanity. The issues and concerns raised above are delineated in the following conference sub-themes:

Sub-theme 1: HE Regionalisation and Harmonisation: One Model Fits All?

How does one unitary HE model impact HE regionalisation and harmonisation? In considering the question, the issue of global convergence or divergence looms large and raises the need to address the following issues:

• Diversity of HE models, either existing or that existed in recent past

• Current trends in regional harmonisation of HE systems

• Challenges and issues in regional HE cooperation

Sub-theme 2: HE in a Globally Competitive World – From a Tradable to a Competitive Commodity

The fact that HE is a tradable commodity under WTO/GATS has encouraged the provision of HE across borders and given a new dimension to internationalisation of HE. While there are positive aspects to these developments, there are equally negative effects which need to be discussed. And the relatively new trend of global ranking of HE institutions is influencing policy makers in planning their HE sector. The issues that need to be debated include the following:

• Should HE be a tradable commodity?

• Cross-border HE and internationalisation: Are there losers?

• Global ranking and benchmarking of HE institutions: Who benefits?

Sub-theme 3: HE in Times of Global Financial and Economic Turbulence

The current global economic meltdown is challenging many sectors and will inevitably affect the HE sector. At a time when HE is widely acknowledged as a motor for growth and development, especially in the South, the repercussions can be serious. It is therefore imperative to discuss the effects of the economic crisis on the HE sector, and consider how they can be mitigated. One also needs to examine whether the HE sector in the South will be affected in the same way as in the North. The issues of concern are:

• Repercussions of the economic crisis on the HE sector: Funding, student enrolment, quality, etc.

• Will HE in the South be affected in the same way as in the North? What will be the impact on national growth and development?

• How can the challenges be overcome? Are there avenues for North-South HE collaboration?

Sub-theme 4: Scenarios for HE Futures

The desirability of a unitary model of HE has motivated the debate on one model fits all. It should also stimulate discussions on alternative models and encourage the creative process of re-thinking HE that would serve the future of humanity. In this regard, discussions on the scenarios for HE futures should focus on the following:

• HE to serve local or global needs, or both?

• Alternative models of HE futures

• Embedding values and service to humanity in HE futures

The GHEF2009 is jointly organised by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE) and Universiti Sains Malaysia ( USM ) with the Centre for Higher Education Research and Study (CHERS), Ministry of Higher Education, Saudi Arabia as the co-sponsor. The Association of African Universities (AAU) and Consortium for North American Higher Education Collabaration (CONAHEC) will provide intellectual support and the IPPTN will act as form as the Forum's GHEF 2009 Secretariat.

From 13 Dec 2009
Until 16 Dec 2009
Penang, Malaysia
News topics: