Global Challenges
Issue no. 14 | November 2023
The Future of Universities
Global Challenges
Issue no. 14 | November 2023
The Future of Universities | Outlook

Resources of the Geneva Graduate Institute in the Field of Higher Education

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To complement the articles in this dossier, this page provides a selection of resources on higher education produced by the Geneva Graduate Institute.

Research CentRE

Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training (NORRAG)

NORRAG is a global network of over 5,000 members for international policies and cooperation in education and training. NORRAG is an offshoot of the Research, Review, and Advisory Group (RRAG) established in 1977 and at the time funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Swedish International Development Authority (Sida). It was charged with critically reviewing and disseminating education research related to the developing world. The current name was adopted in 1986 and NORRAG is now mainly supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). NORRAG is a research centre of the Geneva Graduate Institute.

NORRAG’s strength lies in addressing under-researched questions of quality and equity in key issues in education and development, and in amplifying under-represented expertise particularly from the South. NORRAG’s core mandate is to produce, disseminate and broker critical knowledge, and to build capacity for and with the wide range of stakeholders who constitute it. Its stakeholders from academia, governments, NGOs, international organisations, foundations and the private sector inform and shape education policies and practice at national and international levels. Through its work, NORRAG contributes to creating the conditions for more participatory, evidence-informed decisions that improve equal access to and quality of education and training.

NORRAG seeks to actively participate in the creation of the conditions for more participatory, evidence-informed policy decisions that improve equal access to quality education. NORRAG supports public, private and voluntary sectors and academia worldwide in its common goal to improve equitable and quality education and learning outcomes for the learners and societies that are at the centre of all education policy and practice.

NORRAG undertakes projects in four thematic priority areas which need more and better contextualised research and knowledge, policy dialogue and capacity building. A fifth set of transversal activities relates to ensuring NORRAG’s institutional sustainability.

NORRAG co-produces, mobilises and disseminates quality research and evidence on education and development in order to help reduce uncertainty for policy makers, planners, practitioners and researchers. Surfacing and amplifying under-represented expertise, particularly from the South, helps to generate relevant and contextualised global, regional and national public goods and policy debate. Recognising that evidence use is essentially a relational process underpins our facilitation of policy dialogue in Geneva and worldwide. Building capacity to collect, interpret and use data and evidence helps to improve educational planning, policymaking and practice (see How does NORRAG work).


Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX)

This joint endeavour between NORRAG and the International Development Research Centre aims to connect expertise, innovation and knowledge to support GPE partner countries in building stronger education systems and accelerating progress toward SDG 4. KIX is the largest fund solely dedicated to meet global public good gaps in education. A KIX Peer Learning and Exchange Portal was launched in 2021 to support the initiative.

A few publications

Education in Times of Climate Change
This NORRAG Special Issue (NSI 07) addresses the question of how education is to equip learners to participate in climate action that would fundamentally disrupt existing problematic systems. NSI 07 showcases what is currently being done to close the gap between the potential of education to contribute to more a sustainable and just world and the experiences of those in education.

States of Emergency: Education in the Time of COVID-19
The sixth edition of NORRAG Special Issue, published in October 2021, seeks to conceptualise the multiple emergencies brought about by COVID-19 as it presents the world not only with a biological and health emergency, but also a political, economic and social emergency intertwined. Read in its entirety, this NORRAG Special Issue highlights the ways in which these emergencies in education are interconnected.

Results-based Financing in Education for Sub-National Government and School Administrators: A Conceptual Framework and Practical Recommendations
This review (WP no 12, 2021) applies principal-agent theory to explain the causal mechanisms at work in the use of results-based financing (RBF) to improve education service delivery. It uses this theoretical framework to examine RBF interventions to incentivise meso-level actors. For the purpose of this study, meso-level is defined as actors and/or institutions who are in charge of education system management and administration at local government (e.g., province, region, district) or school level, such as district education officers, school management committees and school directors. Research for this review was based on published literature and project documents on meso-level RBF interventions in education systems of low-and middle-income countries.

New Philanthropy and the Disruption of Global Education
In this fourth edition of NORRAG Special Issue, 31 articles aim to highlight global and national experiences, as well as diverse perspectives on the role and function of new philanthropy in education. The aim is to expand the debate and foster dialogue, bridge the gap between theory and practice, as well as stimulate new research, advocacy and policy innovation in international education development.

Public Private Partnerships in Education: A Brief Overview of the Literature
Addressing the education system in South Africa, this paper aims to offer a brief overview of public private philanthropic partnerships in education as described in current academic literature. It further aims to begin the process of deriving principles from this literature to stimulate discussion on how these collaborations might best mitigate social inequalities in education and operate to the advantage of all stakeholders.

The Right to Education Movements and Policies: Promises and Realities
The first edition of NORRAG Special Issue (NSI) was published in January 2018. It was dedicated to examining international frameworks and national policy.

Marc Galvin
Valorisation of Research
Research Office
Geneva Graduate Institute

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Header image caption: View of interior inside the Ulster University new Belfast campus Block C.

TABLE: Roles and Missions of the University

RegimeRole and missions
Medieval UniversityServing God and Church; Serving Science
Westphalian UniversityServing Science; Serving State and Nation
Postmodern UniversityServing Society and Humanity; Serving the Market

Source: Marie-Laure Salles-Djelic, “Scholars in the Audit Society: Understanding our Contemporary Iron Cage”, in Scholars in Action: Past – Present – Future, ed. Lars Engwall (Uppsala Universitet, 2012), p. 99.

DEFINITIONS: Selection of Terms Related to Higher Education


A university (from Latin universitas “a whole”) is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in several academic disciplines. Universities typically offer both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The word university is derived from the Latin phrase universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars”. (Wikipedia)

Higher education

Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education. This consists of universities, colleges and polytechnics that offer formal degrees beyond high school or secondary school education. The right of access to higher education is mentioned in a number of international human rights instruments. The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 declares, in Article 13, that “higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”. (Wikipedia)


A college (Latin collegium) is an educational institution or a constituent part of one. In most of the world, a college may be a high school or secondary school, a college of further education, a training institution that awards trade qualifications, a higher-education provider that does not have university status (often without its own degree-awarding powers), or a constituent part of a university. The word is generally also used as a synonym for a university in the US. (Wikipedia)


Apprenticeship is a system for training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study (classroom work and reading). Apprenticeships can also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated occupation. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies. (Wikipedia)

Information society

An information society is a society where the usage, creation, distribution, manipulation and integration of information is a significant activity. Its main drivers are information and communication technologies, which have resulted in rapid growth of a variety of forms of information. Proponents of this theory posit that these technologies are impacting most important forms of social organisation, including education, economy, health, government, warfare, and levels of democracy. (Wikipedia)

Knowledge society

A knowledge society generates, shares and makes available to all members of the society knowledge that may be used to improve the human condition. A knowledge society differs from an information society in that the former serves to transform information into resources that allow society to take effective action, while the latter only creates and disseminates the raw data. The capacity to gather and analyse information has existed throughout human history. However, the idea of the present-day knowledge society is based on the vast increase in data creation and information dissemination that results from the innovation of information technologies. (Wikipedia)


TABLE: The Top 12 Host Countries of International Students in 2022 (by number of students)


Source: Project Atlas.

GRAPH: The Twelve Countries with the Most Universities in 2023

Info Box

BOX: The Humboldtian Model of Higher Education

The Humboldtian model of higher education or Humboldt’s Ideal is a concept of academic education that emerged in the early 19th century and whose core idea is a holistic combination of research and studies. It integrates the arts and sciences with research to achieve both comprehensive general learning and cultural knowledge. Several elements of the Humboldtian model heavily influenced and subsequently became part of the concept of the research university. The Humboldtian model goes back to Wilhelm von Humboldt, a Prussian philosopher, government functionary and diplomat who, in the time of the Prussian reforms, relied on a growing, educated middle class to promote his claims about general education.

As a privy councillor in the Interior Ministry, he reformed the Prussian education system according to humanist principles. He founded the University of Berlin, appointing distinguished scholars to both teach and conduct research there. Several scholars have labeled him the most influential education official in German history. Humboldt sought to create an educational system based on unbiased knowledge and analysis, combining research and teaching while allowing students to choose their own course of study. The University of Berlin was later named the Humboldt University of Berlin, after him and his brother, the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. His educational model went beyond vocational training in Germany.

In a letter to the Prussian king, he wrote: “There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life.”

The philosopher and former State Minister for Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany, Julian Nida-Rümelin, has criticised discrepancies between Humboldt’s ideals and the contemporary European education policy, which narrowly understands education as preparation for the labor market, arguing instead that one needs to decide between McKinsey’s and Humboldt’s ideals.



VIDEO: What Are Assets, and Why Do They Matter?

Additional information: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/universities-and-unicorns/.
Source: Science Animated, https://sciani.com.


VIDEO: What Are the Key Tensions in Educational Technology?

Additional information: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/universities-and-unicorns/.
Science Animated, https://sciani.com/.

VIDEO: The UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education Policy, with Chanwoong Baek

Research Office, Geneva Graduate Institute.

VIDEO: University in Question, with Marie-Laure Salles

Research Office, Geneva Graduate Institute

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