• It will host the UNESCO Conference, which is held every decade and which leaves Paris for the first time

  • More than 2,000 people from 128 countries will attend the 42 round tables and 30 talks in person

Barcelona It will be the week of May 16 world capital of higher education thanks to two events of the first magnitude: the World Higher Education Week, May 16-20, and the third World Conference on Higher Education of UNESCO, from 18 to 20. This last conclave is held every 10 years and for the first time it takes place outside of Paris. These days, more than 2,000 people, including students, teachers, academics and legislators, from 128 countries will participate in person in some of the 42 round tables and 30 talks that will be given by 429 speakers and that make up a vast program. In addition, more than 8,000 people have registered to follow the events ‘on line’.

“The world of higher education has changed, and is almost unrecognizable, since the last Conference, and the great leaps have taken place particularly in the number of students, international cooperation and educational quality”, underlined the head of the Division of Unesco Higher Education, Peter Wells, this Friday at the official presentation of the event. As part of this week, Unesco will present the ‘New World Report on Higher Education’, prepared by more than 90 experts who have analyzed how to rethink universities. In this sense, Wells has pointed out that at the end of the week of the Conference there will be a Roadmap general and open that should serve as a starting point for each country and each university to consider their strategies for the next decade and beyond.

Currently, according to UNESCO data, there are 235 million students enrolled in higher education worldwide, a figure that has doubled in the last twenty years and will double again in the next decade.

The Conference will address with special emphasis the inequalities in access to higher education (also in conflict areas), studying aspects such as gender gaps and refugee status in relation to student status. Other aspects that will be worked on are the International cooperationthe collaboration between cities, civil society and universities, the lifelong trainingthe equity and what the university of the future should be like.

The organization of the week has been in charge at the local level of the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi)chaired by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), with the support of Government, the Generalitat, the Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Provincial Council. All these institutions have thanked UNESCO for its commitment to Barcelona and have expressed their wish for continuity. In this sense, the ‘consellera’ of Foreign Action, Victoria Alsinahopes that the Conference will serve to crystallize projects where the Government can be integrated, such as a future UNESCO Institute specialized in higher education.

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For his part, the Deputy Mayor for Education and Science, Jordi Marti, has valued the fact that this event contributes to the strategy of scientific capital to which Barcelona aspires, “the city that receives the most Erasmus”, and has trusted that the Week will serve to “imagine the city as a great campus” . The Secretary General of Universities, Jose Manuel Pingarronhas stressed that the “close and loyal” cooperation between all the institutions involved, starting with the Government and the Govern, has made possible an act “of the first magnitude”. Joseph Maria Vilalta, on behalf of the ACUP, has pointed out that the choice of Barcelona “has not come out of nowhere”. “We have a powerful university base and a global university network, and we have had the complicity of all the institutions.” Vilalta expressed everyone’s wish: “We have a city that is in a position to host the Conference and we want to be a benchmark in the world university environment.”

Various groups such as the Sindicat d’Estudiants dels Països Catalans (SEPC), the Associació d’Estudiants Progressistes (AEP), the Col lectius Assamblearis d’Universitats, the CGT, the COS and the USTEC have called protests in disagreement with the agenda of the UNESCO Conference. They denounce that the organizing committee left them out and established contacts with the business sector and that the agenda has been drawn up “without a broad consultation process.” Extreme that Wells has denied, who has stressed that there has been a “wide consultation process” with student associations, rectors, regional networks. “Everyone has been invited,” she has said.

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