Higher Education and the Public Good

Laureate remains committed to being a thought leader in all areas of our work, including social impact. In this post, we’re excited to have the perspective of William Plater, who from 2012 to 2014 was the Senior Adviser for International Affairs of the WASC Senior Colleges and Universities Commission (WSCUC), and also served as the WSCUC Commissioner from 2005 to 2011. Plater is an international expert on higher education and a firm believer in the importance of institutions that educate students to impact their communities in meaningful ways.

Below he provides perspective on two important pieces recently released on the role of higher education in promoting the public good.

Text by William Plater

In December 2015, UNESCO issued an important new report, Rethinking Education: Towards a Global Common Good, as a challenge to governments, educational institutions, think tanks, and foundations to respond to a dramatically important transitional point in the forms and purposes of education at all levels.  In introducing the report, Irina Bokova, the Director-General, stated:

“There is no more powerful transformative force than education – to promote human rights and dignity, to eradicate poverty and deepen sustainability, to build a better future for all, founded on equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity.”

The challenges facing the world have never so desperately needed effective education at all levels, but especially at the postsecondary level, where leaders shape their idea and ideals, acquire the skills and knowledge to act, and gain the wisdom to see how the local and global are interconnected.

In response to the UNESCO challenge, Laureate’s own Higher Learning Research Communications, has published a special edition focused on higher education and the global public good.  The special issue contains important essays by some of the world’s leading experts on community engagement along with reports from the field about successful attempts to rethink education as a global good.  The essays fall into three broad areas: conceptual frameworks and considerations, the advantages to communities of global considerations of the public good, and the actual work of institutions in creating a global public, or common, good.

In guest editorials, Gary Rhoades of the University of Arizona raises important questions about the globalization and commodification of education while Bart Houlahan and Dan Osusky from the non-profit B Lab describe the breakout path taken by Laureate Education, Inc. and a few other educational pioneers to reconceive for-profit education as a public benefit enterprise—doing well by doing good.  Iris Yob describes Walden University’s strong commitment to social responsibility.

Judith Ramaley, former Portland State University president, and Ira Harkavy and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania outline how local partnerships can have global impact, especially by preparing graduates who have the capacity to act transnationally—for a shared global good.  There are 14 essays in all with 20 contributors representing four nations.

Along with the UNESCO report, this special issue offers the Laureate network a set of tools, inspiration and aspirational accomplishments, and a powerful reaffirmation of why the Laureate global network is Here for Good.