The academic profession discussed at the World Conference on Higher Education

published 8 July 2009 updated 8 July 2009

EI, together with close to 40 representatives from EI-affiliated higher education unions, has been actively participating in the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris which started on 5 July with EI’s Vice-President Irene Duncan Adanusa intervening in one of the opening sessions.

On Tuesday 5 July, Penni Stewart, the President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, an EI affiliate, made an intervention in a workshop on the Academic Profession. In her speech, she looked back at developments and progress made since the first World Conference on Higher Education, and also looking forward to where academics might be going.

She brought to the attention of the participants the pressures put upon higher education staff particularly in light of the current global economic recession including: the growth of fixed-term and casual employment in the sector; the general decline in the terms and conditions of employment and the concomitant need to recruit and retain high quality staff; the weakening of collegial governance; and continuing and new threats to academic freedom. She stated that for developing countries, these problems are even more great.

She referred to the necessity to highlight the central importance of academic staff in the higher education sector globally, and highlighted the 1997 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel.

She concluded: "Our generation of academics faces formidable challenges and the way forward is not always clear. We must continue to raise awareness among our colleagues and in the public more generally about the issues and barriers we face. And academic staff must continue to promote high quality public education, advocate for collegial governance and be absolutely militant in our defense of academic freedom."

EI is contributing extensively to the World Conference on Higher Education. Deputy General Secretary Monique Fouilhoux is in the drafting committee for the final communiqué, and EI will be organising a stakeholder panel together with the International Association of Universities and the European Students Union.