The UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022) was held in Barcelona on 18-20 May. The conference brought together all relevant stakeholders, including international organisations, policy makers, university authorities, to define and prepare their roadmap for a new era of higher education systems and institutions.
As a hybrid conference, WHEC2022 aimed at reshaping ideas and practices in higher education to ensure sustainable development for the planet and humanity. Invited by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), Mr. Wei JIA, President of Shanghai Open University (SOU), participated in the conference online, and made a keynote speech on 18 May.
As a representative of UIL’s important partners, JIA Wei delivered a keynote speech entitled A Platform University for Lifelong Learning at the roundtable discussing strategic reflections of how can higher education institutions (HEIs) be transformed into lifelong learning institutions. In his speech, he introduced the concept of ‘Platform University’, and shared the experience and practice of SOU to make lifelong learning accessible to the citizens.
Dr. Budd Hall, from University of Victoria, who is also the Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, said SOU was an excellent model in the transformation of higher education institutions to lifelong learning institutions. Mr. Michael Gaebel, Director of Higher Education Policy Unit of European University Association (EUA), thought SOU has been in the forefront of transformation, and lifelong learning has become an important part of the work of the University. Dr. David Atchoarena, Director of UIL, fully affirmed the innovative exploration made by SOU in the transformation of higher education institutions, and SOU’s efforts in making lifelong learning accessible to all citizens. He also highlighted SOU’s contribution to the collaborative research project between UIL and SOU.
The topic of roundtable is based on a collaborative research project between UIL and SOU entitled ‘The Contribution of Higher Education Institutions to Lifelong Learning’, which was launched in 2020, supported by the International Association of Universities (IAU), the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), and the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC). The Global Survey Report of the research project, released during the conference, analysed the policy environments, structures and mechanisms, as well as access and participation in lifelong learning. Another Policy Brief was also released, which provided insights on principal areas of action for policymakers and other key stakeholders.
WHEC2022 is the third World Conference on Higher Education, after the first one in 1998, and the second in 2009. With the theme ‘Reinventing Higher Education for a Sustainable Future’, the conference aims at breaking away from the traditional models of higher education and opening doors to new, innovative, creative, and visionary conceptions that not only serve current agendas for sustainable development, but also pave the way for future learning communities that overcome barriers, speak to all and are inclusive of all lifelong learners.