Global allies seek to dilute West's influence

April 5, 2002

Academics from the developing world are setting up a network dedicated to reform of their higher education systems free from western domination, writes David Jobbins.

The idea emerged from a seminar in Bath on the progress of implementation of the World Bank-Unesco task force that produced its Peril or Promise report in 1998.

Unesco is considering a biannual gathering of higher education specialists to give impetus to reform. Supporters of the South-South Higher Education Reform Network are seeking to dilute the developed world's influence on the process.

A draft statement of aims says: "A central component of the strategy to promote change is to create, nurture and strengthen communities of change at institutional, national and global levels.

"Many of us are involved in a variety of networks of this type at national and/or institutional levels... The time has come to bring together a community of change at a global level as well."

The network will enable isolated administrators and academics to share information about processes of change in higher education systems in developing countries, promote research and function as a cradle of social entrepreneurship and touchstone of ideas. It will even out marked differences in standards of conduct for institutions of higher education, scholars and teachers, policy-makers and financial donors.

Organisers have given themselves until the end of June to set up the basic network. Tariq Banuri, senior research director at the Tellus Institute in Boston, said: "The network is meant to bring together a global community of change. The most relevant attribute is not where people come from - North or South - but what they are committed to. Its core will be those committed to particular institutions or systems rather than those for whom these might be mere objects of study."

Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha, executive secretary of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, added: "We in the developing world want to be in the driver's seat of reform in higher education. Only by doing so shall we own the transformation."

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