The Future We Want for Higher Education

The Paris Message, entitled “Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education for the Future We Want” provides 15 clear points for governments, higher education leaders, academic staff and tertiary students.

The Paris Message has been issued by the Global High Level Policy Forum, organized by UNESCO in partnership with ICDE, held in Paris in June 2015. Over 150 participants – leading policy-makers, experts, senior management and stakeholders from higher education from all regions and more than 55 countries around the world – agreed to carry this message forward to their home countries and regions.

The need for a massive increase in quality higher education capacity

The number of students enrolled in higher education is forecast to rise to over 414 million in 2030, a four-fold increase since the turn of the century. “The global education community has a new point of departure to respond to the scale and urgency of demand for accessible, affordable and quality higher education,” says the Paris Message. Open and flexible education represents a core range of strategies within a variety of contexts, utilising media and information and communication technologies (ICT), to contribute to meeting this growing demand, while ensuring equity, access, and quality learning outcomes. See Report from UNESCO Forum

The Paris Message goes further, being more specific and action oriented, arguing that online, open and flexible programmes represent an essential component of the global response. Points 11 to 15 relate specifically to academic staff and HE student:

With support of HE institutions, academic staff should:
11. Be empowered with technology-enhanced pedagogical skills and supported to engage with Online, Open and Flexible education practice.
12. Be supported to take on new roles, such as learning coaches or mentors, dedicated to teaching students how to learn in a digital environment, as opposed to teaching them content.
13. Be encouraged to create, develop, adapt and share high-quality accessible digital resources, taking into account local needs and diversity of learners. Continued and enhanced access to a growing inventory of quality OER represents a cornerstone for online, open and flexible learning worldwide.

Students should:
14. Be supported in ways to engage effectively with Online, Open, and Flexible education practice, particular attention being given to students with learning challenges, to new groups of learners, and to building skills for lifelong learning, not just initial education.
15. Be empowered with knowledge and skills enabling them not only to be successful online learners but also successful employment creators and entrepreneurs.

The Paris Message stresses that “There is no time to lose. Now is the time for action.”