International Centre for Higher Education Innovation
under the auspices of UNESCO

Policy Brief of UNESCO-Shenzhen Funds-in-Trust: Advancing Equity and Excellence in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific Was Officially Released

February 27, 2021
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With support from the UNESCO-Shenzhen Funds-in-Trust (UNESCO-SFIT), the policy brief titled Building ecosystems for online and blended learning: Advancing equity and excellence in higher education in the Asia-Pacific (policy brief) is officially released. The policy brief was completed in collaboration with colleagues from the International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO (UNESCO-ICHEI), UNESCO Bangkok, the Education University of Hong Kong, Curtin University, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Universiti Putra Malaysia and, University of Colombo as well as educational experts and scholars in the Asia-Pacific region.


UNESCO-SFIT in Asia focuses on ICT-driven higher education innovation and university capacity building. This part was implemented by UNESCO Bangkok Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and was completed in 2019. UNESCO-SFIT in Africa focuses on quality assurance in higher education. This part was implemented by the Higher Education Office of UNESCO Headquarters at 10 African countries ( Egypt, Gambia, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Mali, Niger, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia) to build quality assurance institutions and mechanisms in higher education, and is expected to complete at the end of 2021. UNESCO assessed that the project has played a unique and significant role in supporting UNESCO to fulfil its higher education duties, and has become a model of South-South cooperation.

As COVID-19 upends lives and livelihoods worldwide, the rapid growth of online learning is challenging the relevance of traditional higher education systems. Although efforts to promote and enhance the use of ICT in higher education in the Asia-Pacific have rapidly increased, progress is far from sufficient. This brief highlights important questions for national policymakers in the Asia-Pacific to enhance online and blended learning for quality higher education. Blended learning – the deliberate combination of online learning with face-to-face classroom- based learning – requires eight key dimensions: 1. institutional vision and philosophy; 2. curriculum; 3. professional development; 4. learning support; 5. infrastructure and support; 6. policy and institutional structure; 7. partnerships; and 8. research and evaluation. As a result, higher education leaders can draw on lessons learned to self-assess their institutional readiness across the eight dimensions and four progression stages, namely, from building readiness/under construction, to applying, infusing and transforming higher education through blended learning.


Besides, this policy brief includes three promising practices in the region as follows:
International Institute of Online Education (IIOE) of UNESCO-ICHEI as a Springboard Towards Quality Higher Education and SGD4;
The University of Colombo in Sri Lanka promotes blended learning step by step;
– Japan provides higher education learners with anytime access to digitized, portable transcripts and credentials online.

The policy brief sheds light on the importance of achieving equity and excellence in higher education, and increase countries’ confidence in achieving quality higher education and responding to challenges posed by COVID-19.

This policy brief suggests member countries in the Asia-Pacific should focus on developing viable ecosystems for equity and local excellence in higher education. UNESCO-ICHEI will also implement the policy brief in the project countries and work together with UNESCO, local governments, higher education institutions, and business partners to advance equity and excellence in higher education. By formulating and implementing ICT competency standards for university teachers, UNESCO-ICHEI and stakeholders will further promote the digital transformation of higher education around the world.

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Policy Brief: Building ecosystems for online and blended learning: Advancing equity and excellence in higher education in the Asia-Pacific

Other relevant links:
UNESCO Bangkok

UNESDOC Digital Library

Self-Assessment Tool for Quality Higher Education in Asia-Pacific