A fortnight ago, the Commonwealth Students Association (CSA) and the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth and Education Divisions took part in the Organization for Economic Development’s (OECD) Inaugural Higher Education Stakeholders Forum. The OECD, like the Commonwealth, was established to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Like the Commonwealth, the OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.
The meeting, sponsored by the Australian Government and hosted at the Australian Embassy in Paris, France, was part of OECD’s broad stakeholder dialogue that will support their new work on higher education, ”Enhancing Higher Education System Performance.” This is further divided into two main strands of work: bench-marking higher education system performance and labour market relevance, and outcomes of higher education systems. At the meeting, CSA representatives joined other participants had the opportunity to discuss and unpack these two areas and review the proposed projects design and development.
On the sidelines of the meeting, the CSA met with the outgoing chair of the European Students’ Union to discuss how to further the global student cooperation movement that was captured in the Bergen Declaration. This is with the understanding that with an increasingly globalised world, there is need to have a much more concerted and coordinated effort to ensure that students’ rights are guaranteed universally, without being limited to regional dynamics. The OECD meeting also served as a platform to meet other players in the higher education sector, as the organisation seeks to deepen its engagement in the global higher education policy formulation processes.
This month, the CSA will be taking part in the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Conference of University Leaders to be held in Accra, Ghana from 27-29 July. The conference will bring together top academics and high-profile speakers to discuss the role universities play in social and economic development, with the aim of helping delegates to better understand, promote and build strong partnerships, and manage change within higher education. We intend to use the meeting to encourage University Vice Chancellors and Ministers of Education to broaden and facilitate student voices in their institutional policy-making spaces. The meeting, coming hardly a month after the ‘Brexit’ vote, will be quite significant in determining the direction of Commonwealth higher education scholarship in the coming years.
In the same month, both the CSA and the Commonwealth Youth Council will be taking part in the 14th meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Youth Forum, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 17th to 23rd July, 2016. At the meeting, the CSA will seek to promote higher education as a basic right and a public good, and that it thus should not be made subject to the global trade regime.
We are also finalising our 2016-2019 Strategic Plan. The Plan seeks to deepen the CSA’s presence as a visible, credible, sustainable and engaging network of national student’s associations/unions, by strengthening national student bodies through being a platform for advocacy, networking, policy review, research and capacity building. It is also in this strategic planning that the CSA will work on a Commonwealth Students’ Charter, which we aim to be the guiding document on student rights in the Commonwealth.
We will also work with stakeholders to establish national student bodies in Commonwealth Countries where there are none, strengthen the governance of those that already exist and re-launch our membership recruitment. In all this, the CSA seeks to tap into the global partnerships that arise from Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals while seeking to ensure that students are not only represented at the supra-national level, but are also empowered at the regional, national and grassroots levels to cohesively advocate for their right. We recognise that this may seem to others too ambitious a vision, but we know together, we can.
Written by George Stanley Njoroge
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