Norway becomes first country to ratify UNESCO Global Convention on Higher Education

COVID-19 school and university closures have impacted an unprecedented number of learners across the globe. The pandemic has further demonstrated the need to scale up and strengthen international cooperation in higher education teaching, learning and research.

Only six months after its adoption, UNESCO Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education received the first ratification from Norway.

“This sends a clear signal that the Convention not only serves to support the mobility of students, learners and research, but also to recognize study courses and qualifications earned via new forms of blended, remote and open learning, including cross-border,” says Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education. “I wish to congratulate Norway on this first ratification and encourage other Member States to quickly follow this lead for the benefit of all students, teachers and researchers around the world.”

Unanimously adopted by UNESCO’s 193 Member States during the General Conference in November 2019, the Global Convention is the first UN treaty on higher education with a global scope, and is a critical normative framework for re-thinking and reimagining the internationalization of higher education institutions.

“Our hope is that this will make it easier for individuals to have their qualifications recognised in another country,” commented the Norwegian Minister of Higher Education Henrik Åsheim. “This can contribute to more people finding employment more quickly and using their competences if they move abroad”. The Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby, responsible for UNESCO affairs in Norway, added: “This convention is a good example of how UNESCO’s work has a concrete impact on individuals all over the world. Both under normal circumstances, and during times of crisis like we are experiencing right now, we need global organizations that lead the way and work for the values our society is built on, including the principle of equal right to education.”

Today over 5,3 million students are studying abroad and 50% of these are enrolled on courses and programmes outside their home region. The Global Convention builds on the existing regional recognition conventions creating an umbrella of principles and obligations for inter-regional academic mobility.

“By guaranteeing that qualifications are evaluated in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner the global higher education community can both increase access to higher education in a more inclusive way, and widen knowledge circulation, innovation and creativity between the world’s institutions of higher learning,” said Ms Giannini.

The Global Convention will facilitate international academic exchange and promote the rights of individuals to have their foreign qualifications or study periods evaluated through fair, transparent and non-discriminatory mechanisms. The legal framework of the Convention encourages countries worldwide to establish mechanisms for the sharing of information and good practices and to build networks in higher education. The Convention comes into force when ratified by 20 countries.