- International Organizations and Higher Education Policy: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally?
International Organizations and Higher Education Policy: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally?, edited by Roberta Malee Bassett and Alma Maldonado-Maldonado, is one of several books in the International Studies in Higher Education series edited by David Palfreyman, Scott Thomas, and Ted Tapper (2009a, 2009b). The series goal is to present nearly a dozen volumes designed to assist the reader in better understanding how national and regional higher education systems are dealing with pressures to change.
At the country level, the need for change is driven by such issues as rapid expansion, reduced public funding, influences of the market, other global forces, and the need to more closely integrate higher education into society and the world economy. Even more daunting, according to the editors, is the pressure at the regional and international levels to transform higher education systems through collaboration and cooperation, not only within tertiary education itself, but also with the private sector and governmental agencies (Palfreyman, Thomas, & Tapper, 2009a, 2009b).
Bassett and Maldonado-Maldonado, in their contribution to this series, focus on the role of international organizations in influencing higher education policy. It is among the first attempts to capture these global organizations as complex, dynamic, and polemic rather than simple and unchanging. The authors point out that the issues of today and the near future require a serious consideration of the relationships among higher education and such influential global organizations as the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This premise drives the direction of the book.
The authors raise several basic questions about higher education and the impact of these international organizations: What are the main activities of these groups and how can they be viewed as polemic and/or contradictory? Do the influences of these organizations vary by region? How have they contributed to the development of higher education and where? Finally, how useful is multilateral aid vis-à-vis aid provided by foundations or other bilateral organizations?
Using this list of questions as a guide, the authors organize their answers into four parts. Part 1 is on international organizations and higher education. Part 2 discusses multilateral organizations. The regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America and their interaction with international organizations are covered in Part 3. Finally, Part 4 delves into the critical topic of various sources of international aid for higher education.
Part 1 consists of a single chapter—a superb discussion by Philip G. Altbach, Boston College (USA), of the relationship among various international organizations, e.g., OECD, UNESCO, World Bank, WTO, and higher education systems/institutions regionally and nationally. Altbach, a preeminent international education scholar, carefully weaves together these intricate relationships that have served higher education well over the course of their existence. He presents a succinct and insightful picture, not only of the support these agencies provide, but also of the oversight and guidance they offer to higher education systems in need of developmental and financial assistance.
Part 2, “Multilateral Organizations: The Internal and External Voices,” presents the main activities, goals, and specific projects of various international organizations, from the viewpoint of authors both in and outside of these groups. Chapter 2 by Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic of UNESCO focuses on that organization, the pinnacle of international organizations that aid higher education.
Karen Mundy and Meggan Madden of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, in Chapter 3, attempt to zero in on UNESCO’s capabilities and limitations in its higher education role. From an insider perspective, in Chapter 4, Tom Schuller of the United Kingdom and Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, of France, both with work experience at OECD, provide a probing look into OECD and its work on internationalizing higher education. I aware of the OECD’s work in developing standards for cross-border education.
Alberto Amaral and Guy Neave of the...