Higher education has never been higher on the international development agenda, Unesco director general Kochiro Matsuura told international donors and other agencies this week.
Mr Matsuura was speaking at the European launch of the World Bank/Unesco task force report, Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise.
While speakers emphasised that the independent task force did not technically represent the policies of either the bank or Unesco, it is clear it will shape future thinking in both organisations.
Mr Matsuura said he had been delighted to hear World Bank president James Wolfenson describe the report at its launch in the United States earlier this year as a "wonderful route map". He pointed to the timeliness of the convergent thinking in the report, Universities and Development, from the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
"We are clearly entering a new period of heightened awareness of the importance of higher education - a heightened awareness that this is the time to act to ensure that developing countries are full and active members of the knowledge-based economy and a heightened awareness that the quality and quantity of higher learning are primordial for social and economic development," he said.
Henry Rosovsky, emeritus professor of history at Harvard and a co-chair of the task force, told The THES: "The most important task was to change the way the World Bank approaches this issue. Nothing could be more important - the bank sets the tone for the rest of the donors."