In a landmark decision to improve student mobility and access to higher education across the globe, the UNESCO General Conference has adopted the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications. This is a first-of-its-kind UN treaty at global scale for the betterment of higher education.

This decision implies that from now on, the signatory states are obligated to recognize qualifications and degrees from outside the regional and territorial boundaries. In keeping with the Global Education Agenda 2030 it is believed that the recognition of the Convention will lead to enhanced international cooperation in higher education.

The aim is to increase not only the global mobility of students, teachers and researchers but to reduce the hurdles they face in the pursuit of international exposure. Considering that there are almost five million students studying abroad, the convention will provide at least half of those the legal rights for assessment of their qualification to obtain admission for either studies or employment purposes.

Other rights provided to international students under the convention include:

  • The right to have foreign qualifications assessed in a fair, non-discriminatory and transparent manner by national competent authorities.
  • Recognition must be given unless the recognizing authority can demonstrate a substantial difference between the foreign qualification and qualifications for the country where the recognition is sought.
  • Procedures must be put in place for the recognition of qualifications for individuals with insufficient or unverifiable documentation, including refugees and displaced persons.
  • Signatory states are also required to put in place robust and ethical quality assurance systems for higher education institutions.

The director general of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay said, “The Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications will be clear evidence that multilateralism, despite its critics, is the most appropriate system for the interconnected world in which we live.”

The conventions adoption interestingly, shifts the burden of proof from the applicants to the authorities appointed for recognition. This decision further means that now refugees, displaced persons and vulnerable migrants can also get their qualifications recognized in regions of displacement.

In a statement, UNESCO said the new convention “creates a normative platform for fostering trust among higher education systems”. Facilitation of higher education through recognition is a step towards creating a global, more inclusive system which benefits states and students.

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