Six ways to ensure higher education leaves no one behind
MetadataShow full item record
Higher education is a cornerstone for sustainable development. It creates new knowledge, teaches specific skills and promotes core values like freedom, tolerance and dignity. Under the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, Target 4.3 states that, by 2030, countries should provide equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and higher education, including university. Achieving this target will facilitate the achievement not only of SDG4 but also of all other SDGs. The higher education sector is very diverse. In addition to wide-ranging traditional degree and advanced degree programmes, there are short courses with a career, vocational or technical focus. While the traditional faceto-face mode of delivery is still dominant, there is now an increasing number of distance and blended programmes. Within countries, higher education institutions vary widely in terms of size, cost, course offerings, procedures, traditions, governance and quality. These differences are amplified by different national policies on admission criteria and funding. A defining characteristic of most higher education systems are the large disparities in access and completion, especially by income and wealth. In the absence of policies and programmes to support qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds, efforts to expand higher education systems risk widening these gaps. To make higher education a catalyst for the creation of sustainable, innovative and equitable societies, governments and universities have to develop policies to make colleges and universities both affordable and inclusive. This policy paper makes policy recommendations for equitable and affordable higher education to better support the implementation of the SDG agenda. To do this, it reviews recent trends in higher education expansion, identifies disparities in student participation, examines policy tools and practices for fostering equity, and explores ways to target assistance at those who need it most.