In 2000, one-hundred and eighty-nine nations signed the UN’s Millennium Declaration outlining the strategy to free people across the globe from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge became known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by the year 2015. The UNESCO MDGs were a united global response to the complex human challenges to address poverty, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, gender equality, child mortality, environmental sustainability, global capacity building with priority focus on Africa, and the achievement of universal primary education.

As the cornerstone of the MDGs, the equitable access to education was seen as ‘a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. Education promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits; and the right of every person to enjoy access to education of good quality, without discrimination or exclusion. Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens’ (UNESCO, 2012). Indeed, education is the universal tool and capacity building resource to effectively change lives and communities and to transform nations and peoples for the 21st century.

Today, globalization and technology have changed the international landscape and have served as the catalysts for social institutions to reinvent themselves to respond to new challenges. Education is no exception and it must reinvent itself in order to respond effectively to the immense challenges facing the international community. This will leverage greater capacity and innovation by educational institutions to meet the growing demands of a global economy and reduce the disparity between developing and developed nations, the have and have-nots; and to bridge the digital divide.

Going global, regardless of the potential benefits, carries a variety of risks for universities. Institutional leaders first and foremost will face tough questions about how international endeavors will benefit the institutions at home. These questions will emanate from all key stakeholders of the institutions. Faculty will decry the use of resources for foreign ventures (or adventures) during an era of reduced government funding to higher education. Some leaders will claim international initiatives will result in new revenue streams to support home campus initiatives; the evidence for this assertion, in fact, is mixed at best.

Conversely, there are many valid reasons that recruiting international students and delivering borderless programs abroad are sound educational initiatives in an increasingly interconnected, and culturally diverse global economy

Recognizing that education’s successful transformation is essential to our capacity to address global social, economic, political and cultural issues, the theme for the Education Without Borders 2013 conference will be:

Bridging the Gap:
Innovative Solutions to Global Educational Challenges

This theme will examine innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing global education. Some the key challenges facing education include:

  • Ensuring access to education at all levels
  • Bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to technology and content in developing nations
  • Developing responsive higher education models
  • Tapping new innovations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Designing creative applications for effective mobile learning, open education, and Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Building public-private partnerships for development
  • Managing cross-border higher education and research
  • How to finance educational innovation
  • Managing the exponential increased cost of higher education
  • Blending Research and Teaching mandates: Contradictory or complementary?
  • Measuring Educational Success – Students, Institutions, and Communities?
  • Gatekeeper of knowledge or gateway to employment-career? Is the 21st century university an academic enterprise or engine for economic growth?
  • Combating the human barriers to education – poverty, hunger, disease, and conflict zones.

The following eight sub-themes have been identified for the 2013 Education Without Borders conference.

Education Without Borders 2013 Sub-themes