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Tertiary Education - Key Issues


The World Bank recognizes five main issues areas currently at the forefront of international tertiary education: governance, finance, quality assurance, lifelong learning, and equity. Within each area, the Bank is concerned about:


  • supporting the autonomous management of institutions within the evolving education environment
  • maintaining the integrity of the academic mission of tertiary education, even within the growing influence of corporate management systems on campuses
  • preserving academic freedom in the face of financial concerns and corporate philosophies on campus


  • developing financial stability in the face of increased costs due to technology and swelling enrollments
  • supporting technology investment in developing countries, to minimize the digital divide
  • preserving stability at the institutional level, recognizing the impact of the consumer mentality of students, the lack of permanence in faculty positions, and the transfer of focus away from degrees and toward practical outcomes (e.g. jobs) for students

Quality Assurance:

  • developing evaluation and accreditation mechanisms for distance and online education programs
  • evolving evaluation methodologies for programs using information technology
  • recognizing the difference between part-time and full-time students and developing standards that take such differences into account
  • supporting national governing bodies as they maintain quality control standards over foreign providers of tertiary education
  • examining whether for-profit and non-profit private institutions should be held to different standards
  • providing access to quality data to students through technology
  • organizing and regulating credit transfer between the different virtual, technical, and traditional institutions
  • determining how to evaluate the competencies and qualifications of students attending multiple institutions
  • reconciling the demand for rapid program development with the need to maintain quality control and review

Global Initiative on Quality Assurance Capacity (GIQAC) - A partnership supported by the World Bank Development Grant Facility (DGF)

Lifelong Learning: (Lifelong Learning in the Global Knowledge Economy)

  • acknowledging that being competitive in the globalized economy requires more than formal degree-oriented learning; it requires a lifetime of skill development and knowledge generation
  • supporting initiatives that provide access to learning for students of all ages and at all stages of their lives


  • ensuring that students in the developing world are afforded access to tertiary education to allow them to contribute to their local and the global market
  • providing support to minimize the impact of the digital divide between wealthy and poorer nations
  • tracking and promoting access to tertiary education for women and other underrepresented groups

In addition to these five main areas, the Bank also encourages policymakers and academic researchers to consider issues of intellectual property, technology, academic management, and the nature of the students’ education and training experience, as they consider the future of higher education around the world.  For more information about all of these Bank priorities, please see “Constructing knowledge societies: New challenges for tertiary education.”

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