Friday, April 21, 2017

UNESCO Policy Recommendations for Equitable and Affordable Higher Education

UNESCO have released a policy paper on "Six ways to ensure higher education leaves no one behind" (20 April 2017).

The six ways are:
  1. Know your target for equity policies. Review equity policies periodically to make sure that the groups that most need help are getting it. Take advantage of household surveys and other monitoring tools to keep track of different groups. 
  2. Put it in the law. Ensure equity and affordability across diverse higher education systems by guaranteeing principles of access within regulatory frameworks
  3. Set up steering and monitoring agencies. Guarantee student protection by establishing national agencies to develop and follow up on equal opportunities policies, equity and affordability in higher education. Quality assurance bodies can play a role in the monitoring of equity policies.
  4. Level the playing field. Use a combination of admissions criteria to ensure that all students have a fair chance at getting into the best universities, regardless of their backgrounds. Develop effective affirmative action policies that put equity front and centre in the admissions process.
  5. Combine tuition fees with means-tested grants and loans. Concentrate public financial aid on disadvantaged student groups. Establish an agency to coordinate student financial aid disbursement and effective collection mechanisms.
  6. Limit student repayments. Combine low tuition and fees with income-based loans to cap student repayment burdens at less than 15% of monthly income.
From: Six ways to ensure higher education leaves no one behind, Page 10, UNESCO, 20 April 2017.

Two additional measures I suggest may help:
  1. Concentrate public financial aid on shorter introductory vocational programs. The funding needed for one student to undertake a three year degree could instead provide three students with a one year diploma, or six students with a six month certificate. Once the student is qualified for a well paying job they can fund their own studies.
  2. Train Academics to Teach On-line:  On-line and blended learning provides considerable potential for providing equitable access to education. However, many university academics have minimal training in how to use computers for teaching. Academics should be trained in how to teach in blended and on-line modes using courses delivered in blended and on-line modes.

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