More than 50 universities in Africa, Latin America and Asia have formed the Southern Universities Network to prepare for competition in the higher education market.
The network is the brainchild of the University of Asmara in Eritrea, whose president, Woldeab Yisak, called on universities in developing countries to diversify and improve their academic programmes for global competition.
He said most universities in the developing world lacked marketing strategies, forcing many countries to become importers of higher education.
According to Bernard Khaemba, the network's director of international programmes, the group has attracted financial support from the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education.
"Unesco has agreed to provide technical assistance to the new organisation," said Mr Khaemba of Moi University in Kenya.
Bethuel Ogot, chairman of Unesco's higher education in Africa programme, said the crisis in African universities lay in their negative image.
He urged governments in developing countries to encourage student mobility by offering merit scholarships and awards to those interested in studying outside their countries.
The network, which has temporary headquarters in Kenya, will monitor student mobility in developing countries and help to establish links between universities, faculties and researchers.
It will be involved in international marketing of curricula and degree programmes in tertiary institutions in developing countries.
The network aims to develop mechanisms for educational cooperation between academic institutions in different countries.