The First Global Higher Education Policy Platform

Reading Time: 4 minutesThe UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) developed an Observatory that collects information on higher education systems in almost 150 countries and compares them. Learn about its functionalities.

Higher Education (HE) enrollment has grown globally and has become more strategically important for countries. Each country has different governance structures, priorities, and challenges in higher education. Therefore, understanding the variety of existing policies is increasingly relevant for countries to know and compare realities and share experiences.

However, the lack of instruments to collect comparable international data on HE systems has resulted in the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) developing the Higher Education Policy Observatory (HEPO). This open-access platform was launched in December 2023 to provide simple information about nations’ Higher Education policies.

Although all the information in this resource is public, for the first time, the records are accessible in the same place. Likewise, the data presented has been diligently obtained from official sources at each country’s national level, reflecting its authorities’ legislation and plans.

To provide accurate and up-to-date information, the Observatory will renew content as higher education systems are reformed.

What valuable content does it offer?

The platform showcases a vast repertoire of content collected from 146 countries. The content is distributed in eight dimensions, comprising 45 indicators with 150 variables representing more than 22,000 unique data points.

The eight dimensions are:

  • Governance structures of Higher Education
  • Legislative frameworks regulating HE
  • Quality assurance systems
  • Higher Education purposes and planning
  • Key principles for HE access
  • Pathways to HE admission
  • Costs of public Higher Education and student support programs
  • Policies for recognizing future and foreign qualifications

One purpose of creating this Observatory was to bring together policymakers, researchers, and HE leaders to provide rich data, exchange knowledge and experiences, and foster constructive dialogue and effective collaboration.

As Director of Research and Analysis Dr. Victoria Galán-Muros and analyst Dr. Mathias Bouckaert from UNESCO-IESALC explain, the Observatory is an interactive database, a valuable tool for Higher Education decision-makers and HE policy researchers worldwide. “By embracing and contributing to this platform, policy-makers will be able to harness the collective wisdom and experiences of diverse higher education systems to drive positive change in Higher Education,” they add.

They also share that the actors who benefit from the instrument’s usefulness will acquire knowledge of system heterogeneity, a comprehensive understanding of regional and international trends, and successful approaches to HE.

Thus, education policymakers can issue comparative diagnoses, evaluate the effectiveness of other models with challenges similar to those experienced in their country, or even increase their collaborative projects with other regions.

The Higher Education Policy Observatory also promotes continuous improvement, transparency, and accountability, which contribute to higher standards for these educational systems and striving for excellence and universality.

“It is equally important to recognise the significance of context and its influence on the outcomes of a policy or an intervention. With proper consideration of local specificities, internationally comparable data can also contribute to generating a deeper understanding of the relationships between policies and their potential impact on higher education systems,” said Victoria Galán-Muros and Mathias Bouckaert.

How does the platform work?

The UNESCO-IESALC platform has three primary ways to display their data:

  • In country profiles, users select the country from which they want to learn detailed information from a list or a map. Subsequently, the data for that country is displayed in categories based on that country’s HE system indicators.
  • The countries’ comparison can contrast up to three nations to analyze their similarities or differences in Higher Education. People can choose countries from a list or a map in this section. Finally, they get a comparison of results under the map.
  • The world panoramas present comparable data based on the 45 indicators mentioned above. Users select an indicator, and its worldwide distribution appears on the map and graphs. The definition of each dimension can be found by clicking on the “explanation” button.

The results shown by this tool can only come from the calculation of the HEPO database of integrated countries. These have been taken from official public sources, such as government websites, legal archives, UNESCO archives, and external sources such as the International Labour Organization (ILO). In addition, official documents are hosted directly on the Observatory platform to ensure the stability of the links.

The first phase (country selection) includes two primary criteria. It prioritizes a) languages where an efficient retrieval of information is guaranteed and b) sizeable nations with large HE systems to optimize the reach of this tool. The regions were defined by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), and the income group classification used corresponds to that established by the World Bank in July 2022.

The UNESCO National Commission and/or the competent national authorities verified the content. Therefore, countries display a “validated” badge in the profiles and country comparison sections. Over time, some data is expected to be modified with updates or the adoption of new laws. Also, the aim is to eventually include new UNESCO member states in the platform by collecting data from countries that have not yet joined.

The Institute, in partnership with UNESCO’s field offices and external partners, is responsible for continuously monitoring changes in education policies globally to reflect the latest changes. At the same time, UNESCO-IESALC encourages Internet users to check the status and implementation of policies, especially in regions that have not been validated or where the most recent update is old.

The Higher Education Policy Observatory also invites users to report any information they consider incorrectly displayed; this will contribute to the truthful dissemination of data. It also encourages them to propose information from a country not included in the lists or to suggest collaborations. To establish a connection, users can contact each other through the following link: Connect here.

Implementing specific HE strategies in particular territories sets a pattern for others. The opportunity to bring together technological advances and educational policy models in the same space contributes to formulating and managing evidence-based solutions to improve the quality of HE. You can explore, compare, and contribute to the future of higher education policies worldwide by visiting the Higher Education Policy Observatory.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top