| 4 minute read

Shaping global higher education: The World Bank’s vision

Elena Galán-Muros
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During the 2023 UIIN Conference, we had a captivating conversation with Roberta Malee Bassett, Global Lead for Tertiary Education at the World Bank. We delved into the crucial role of education in driving global development and the World Bank’s endeavors in promoting educational equity worldwide.

In this article, we summarise part of that conversation, but you can listen to the full interview in our podcast:

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Madeline Arkins
Roberta, would you mind telling us a bit about your role?

Roberta Malee Bassett
As the Global Lead for Tertiary Education at the World Bank, I oversee the World Bank’s global portfolio of higher education projects, which currently is active in about 70 projects. We support from low- to middle-income countries in higher education interventions and the projects we work on are bilaterally crafted with the country who is accessing the World Bank grant to support tertiary education reforms based on their needs.

Madeline Arkins
You have plenty of experience in higher education policy, what is your opinion on policy that would facilitate this progress towards equity in education?

Roberta Malee Bassett
Policies are required, but they need to be purposeful. Equity is not something that happens on its own. In fact, societies are often resistant to the changes required to expand equity, they require purposeful admission policies, financing policies, all sorts of recognition of maybe social weaknesses that need to be corrected through equity interventions.

It is often very painful for societies to address policies required to accelerate and give a framework to equity interventions. Very often policymakers are the drivers of these dialogues and ideas because they see in their communities the need to improve.

Equity is personal, it is on the ground, it is communal, as much as it is policy- and intervention-oriented”.

Madeline Arkins
I know that sustainability transition and tackling climate change is also an area that the World Bank is addressing. From your role, what should universities do, or have done in this vital?

Roberta Malee Bassett
I just think universities are perfectly positioned to say: “We can have an impact here”, and they do. All this information about climate change has emerged from university research, they are the hubs of the knowledge generation. I think embedding the conversation about climate change into the curriculum can happen in any topic area: If you’re talking about philosophy or sociology, anthropology, meteorology, or some STEM fields as well, the conversation around the human experience with climate change is significant. And that will translate into social change and behavioural change, even at the corporate level. It is about an engaging conversation.

Madeline Arkins
We discussed a lot about challenges, difficulties and trends, but is there anything around the topic of the future of education that actually excites you?

Roberta Malee Bassett
I’m excited about all of this because I believe in higher education. I believe that universities and knowledge are the drivers of all the change that we are seeing in the world. From the very basics: universities, community colleges, polytechnics and other post-secondary education institutions not only train the teachers, doctors, engineers, etc. that allow for your day-to-day infrastructure to exist, but the blue-sky thinkers that are making the big change also come from them.

If I had to articulate a problem is that there is no consistent messaging that showcases how great this hub of learning is, and how core and essential it is to all social and economic development.

I encourage all institutional leaders to get out there and say: “Look what we’re doing. Look what our graduates are doing. Look at the change that we’re making in the world, because that change is making a difference”.

Interested in more insights like this?

You can listen now to Monroe France (Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice at Tufts University) discuss how to champion the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion across all levels of an institution in this episode, or to Ian Thompson (Head of UTS Animal Logic Academy) talk about how UTS has created a ground-breaking model for their master’s program in this episode.

Stay tuned for the next episode on this series and don’t forget to follow us on your preferred podcast platform!

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