On April 24th, the World Higher Education Conference (WHEC 2021) National Consultation Meeting under the theme “Higher Education in China and the World towards 2030” was successfully held in Zhejiang University. The consultation meeting was jointly hosted by the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO and Zhejiang University, and organized by the UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurial Education at Zhejiang University and the recently established UNESCO Research Centre at Zhejiang University, and supported by the UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office, the Higher Education Section at UNESCO Headquarters, the Ministry of Education of China and the Communication University of Zhejiang. Representatives, experts, scholars and postgraduate students from UNESCO, the government, research institutes, and higher education institutions in China attended the conference. The in-person event was livestreamed online and reached over 5,000 audience participants.
The overall aim of the consultation is to provide the Chinese perspective on the future of higher education sharply focused on key issues of higher education including policy, equity, innovation, governance, partnership, qualification recognition and accreditation, quality assurance and lifelong learning. The outcome of the national consultation will contribute towards the third WHEC 2021, which will take place in Barcelona, Spain from 7th – 9th of October, 2021.
Dr Kan Yue, Deputy Dean of College of Education, Zhejiang University, moderated the opening session of the conference. The Opening remarks were presented by Professor Wu Xiaocheng, Vice Secretary of the Zhejiang University CCP Committee; Professor Xiaozhou Xu, Chair holder of the UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurial Education at Zhejiang University and President of Communication University of Zhejiang; Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office; and Mr. Robert Parua, Education Programme Specialist from UNESCO Beijing Office.
Professor Khan acknowledged and appreciated the valuable work done by the UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurial Education at Zhejiang University which had become a very successful model within the framework of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme. He congratulated the recent establishment of the UNESCO Research Centre at Zhejiang University and its approvals from the Chinese National Commission and Ministry of Education, and reassured that UNESCO will closely work with the Centre to advance its research agenda. He stressed that the China national consultation was organized at the right moment in the backdrop of COVID-19 and aligned with the implementation of SDG4, target 4.3 and the Education 2030 Agenda with an emphasis on access, equity, inclusion, quality and lifelong learning dimensions of higher education. In his speech, he emphasized that education transforms lives and it is at the heart of UNESCO’s global mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development. Higher education plays a pivotal role in socio-economic development and poverty eradication. He stated that the third WHEC2021 is timely and coming at the right moment to reimagine how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet in a time of increasing complexity and uncertainty. The world needs to know about China’s reform of its higher education system and its efforts in building world class universities with a sharp focus on science, technology and innovation which has significantly contributed to the rapid economic growth of China.
Mr Parua highlighted in his opening remarks that the China national consultation for WHEC2021 would provide valuable inputs to the third World Conference on Higher Education. The Chinese perspective on the future of higher education is very important to contribute towards the global discussion. The recommendations of the national consultation will contribute towards the preparation of the final recommendations of the third WHEC. The background and objectives and the major themes of the WHEC2021 was highlighted during the opening remarks.
In his recorded keynote video address, Mr. Peter Wells, Chief of the Higher Education Section and his colleagues at UNESCO Headquarters presented the background, objectives and major themes of WHEC2021. They emphasized the importance of building connections and partnerships between higher education institutions and society in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Education 2030 Agenda. UNESCO’s vision of the conference is an event that is inclusive, disruptive and innovative; has a worldwide reach; and empowers youth around the world. At the end of the conference, relevant data and information will be generated, updated policy recommendations will be formulated, networks and partnerships will be strengthened, inputs from diverse stakeholders will be considered, and a roadmap will be established and adopted for the upcoming years.
The China consultation meeting reviewed the status of higher education in China, shared knowledge and experiences in all aspects of higher education and explored ideas and strategies to reshape higher education. Education experts and scholars shared insights focused on three themes of higher education: the equality, quality, responsibility and reform of higher education governance; mobility, sharing, partnership and international cooperation; and innovation, entrepreneurship, applicability and sustainable development.
The discussions at the consultation explored effective strategies for the higher education system with specific focus on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fast-changing global environment, as well as recognizing the increasing role of open and distance learning and online learning platforms.
Professor Kan Yue of the School of Education at Zhejiang University had acknowledged the participation of the participants and their contribution and he concluded the meeting with four words in reshaping higher education: context, sharing, responsibility and innovation. Prof. Kan had stressed that the key recommendations will be forwarded to the Secretariat of the WHEC2021. He reiterated that Zhejiang University is deeply committed to strengthening the strategic partnership and collaboration with UNESCO to further advance the development of higher education for a sustainable future.
More to read:
World Higher Education Conference 2021 (WHEC2021)
The third World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2021) 7-9 October 2021 will bring together relevant stakeholders in higher education to define and prepare a roadmap for a new era of higher education. This roadmap will respond to the challenges faced by humanity and the planet, with special attention to the global disruption created by the COVID-19. It will look at both the higher education systems (norms, policies, structures, stakeholders) and institutions (universities, specialized entities, networks).
The WHEC 2021 aims at breaking away from the traditional models of higher learning and opening the door to new, innovative, creative and visionary conceptions that not only serve the current global agendas for sustainable development, but also pave the way for a future learning community that speaks to all and is inclusive of all lifelong learners.