While problems with higher education in the U.S. may be different from issues in Russia and Africa, Georgia Regents University professor Olajide Agunloye is working to ensure students have access to affordable and high quality schools in countries all across the globe.
Agunloye is one of 150 professionals from 55 countries chosen to serve on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s High Level Global Forum on Education, where members are outlining policy suggestions for higher education across the world.
The forum met in Paris in June, where Agunloye said he and his colleagues drafted proposals that will be presented to the United Nations in the fall. The U.N. will then advise individual countries and hold government officials accountable for implementing the changes, he said.
“We now acknowledge education as the most important key to national development and individual development,” said Agunloye, who teaches in the Department of Counselor Education, Leadership, and Research. “The more educated people in society, the better chance that society develops and stays competitive and meets the demands of the contemporary world.”
While different countries have their unique needs, Agunloye said the UNESCO forum drafted several policies that apply to all areas of the world. The proposals include restructuring college curriculums to include more job training; producing lifelong learners; making job experience in college count for academic credit; and increasing government interest in education, among other policies.
Agunloye said there is a disparity in the access to higher education between the northern and southern hemispheres, and countries like Malaysia and Indonesia struggle with providing educational opportunities to citizens.
In the U.S. Agunloye said policy will most likely evolve to focus on more online learning, partially as a result of increasing costs for students and institutions.
“We know now states in America are cutting back on higher education, and higher education institutions are in a financial crunch. It’s becoming very expensive to get an education in America,” he said. “In 50 years or 30 years time, you may see a reduction in maybe 50 percent of brick and mortar universities.”
Agunloye said the suggested global policy for universities to adopt more job training programs especially suits the U.S. He said conversations between universities and businesses could work to help institutions better teach the skills needed by employers while offering students the chance to gain job experience.
He said while the forum is pushing governments to invest more in higher education, not all countries are stable enough to make changes in the short term. Africa has had an explosion in population, but there are currently not enough educational resources to meet the need, for example.
The forum will meet again in Pretoria, South Africa, in October, Agunloye said.