13 July 2009

NEAR: The World Conference on Higher Education, 5-8 July 2009, UNESCO, Paris

The World Conference on Higher Education will be held in July at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on the theme of “The New Dynamics of Higher Education”. It follows the 1998 World Conference, which was important for recognizing higher education as a key factor in the progression of nations and their people, for sustainable development and for human rights as well as for democracy, peace and justice.

Higher education values- academic freedom, institutional autonomy and social responsibility including respect for human rights- were a major thematic discussion at the 1998 conference and an important component of the concluding plan of action and UNESCO’s activities in higher education in the decade since. NEAR and Scholars at Risk (SAR) have submitted a platform, urging the organisers and participants of the WCHE to ensure that higher education values remain a major theme of the 2009 conference, as they were in 1998. Specifically we have asked for:-
1.) Further dissemination of the 1997 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel and also further dissemination of information about existing mechanisms designed for ensuring such standards are put into place.
2.) More discussion and activities with regard to UNESCO’s complaint procedures relating to breaches of academic freedom and a review of the steps taken to involve organisations that represent higher education communities in activities aimed at promoting and defending their academic freedoms.
3.) Leadership from UNESCO, in the form of a directive or other broadly distributed statement and related activities, on the responsibility of the higher education sector to assist higher education professionals displaced by threats experienced in their own countries and a specific plan of action to deal with the grave threats and many thousands of refugee scholars from Iraq.
4.) Leadership from UNESCO in establishing an annual International Academic Freedom Day to highlight the importance of academic freedom, institutional autonomy and social responsibility not only for the education sector but for all members of society.

The Executive Director of NEAR has been invited to speak at the event as an expert on academic freedom issues.

For more information about the conference, please visit UNESCO at:

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