Report writer on higher education and development policy

Report writer on higher education and development policy

SAIH is looking for a writer/researcher to write a report on higher education and development cooperation.

Terms of reference

Background: Contrary to the old Millennium Development Goals, The Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge the existence and put the right to equal access higher education on the agenda. Four goals also have targets mentioning the need for research and development, but we would argue that innovation, research and higher education is needed to meet most goals. However, the higher education sector face tremendous challenges globally. Yet, we see few international initiatives trying to address these challenges.

During the last decades, we have seen a trend of rapidly increasing enrollment rates in higher education in most countries, while many of the least developed countries lag behind, mainly in Africa and Central Asia.

As access to primary and secondary education has increased for many populations (the poorest and most marginalized segments of populations still lack access to quality basic education), these students are now knocking on the door to higher education. Many countries struggle to keep up with this development.

We see a trend where enrolment in private higher education institutions are rapidly growing in low and middle income countries to meet the increasing demand, when states struggle to finance the expansion of higher education.[1] Many states have answered by increased student fees, overfilled lecture halls, reduced research activities in favor of teaching and thereby compromised quality. Increased student fees is also a policy embraced by international policy-makers, like Gordon Browns Education Commission.

The increased trend of enrolment in private higher education institutions also post the important question on quality assurance. An UNESCO-led process planned to finish in 2018 aims at creating a global framework for quality assurance and student mobility.

Public spending on higher education is riddled with dilemmas. Generally, youth from middle and upper-class backgrounds qualify to attend higher education, while youth from poorer backgrounds are generally barred from accessing higher education because of lack of economic means, and/or lack of quality primary and secondary education.

Research without immediate economic benefits are down prioritized and states struggle to fund research that can lead to new knowledge and innovation. Universities turn to the private sector to fund research and education. It is difficult to assess whether research paid by private actors are skewed in any way. At the same time, in some countries, ties between state and state-funded universities are too tight in a way that makes it difficult to assess whether state priorities also affect research priorities. In any of these circumstances, lack of tenure for scholars further threaten their ability to challenge conventional knowledge and dogmas.

The aid community treats the higher education sector with disregard, because it does not necessarily benefit the poorest segments of the population. When the aid community do, most efforts are focused on individual scholarships instead of contributing to change systemic challenges.

At the same time, student movements and students representative bodies demand lower costs, better quality and student welfare, but do not necessarily address the increasing need to expand the sector to cater for more student’s needs.

With this report, SAIH seeks to counter what we consider as contradicting and shallow excuses for overlooking the higher education sector in development policy. We think about the report as an alternative “white paper” or review that is grounded in a rights-based approach to higher education by describing the status quo of the higher education sector globally. The report will be based on research and data. The report should also be based on the needs of the students, academics and institutions expressed in the “World Declaration on Higher Education”, “The Bergen Declaration” and other relevant documents, without going too deep analytically into each topic. The report should answer questions like; what principles should be the foundation for the development community’s engagement with the higher education sector? Why should we engage? What are the benefits to states to develop higher education sector? Why is it paramount to counteract in the face of increased privatization and commercialization of higher education and free research?

Suggested outline of the report:

  • Introduction
    • Status of access to quality higher education globally, based on existing data.
  • Placing higher education in a rights’ based framework
    • What are the most prevalent interpretations of the human right to equal access to higher education?
  • Summary of trends and development policy discussions on higher education from the 1990ies and until now
  • What are the challenges to day to achieve the right to equal access to higher education? Are rising costs and increasing amount of private higher education institutions a threat or opportunity to increase access to higher education?
  • Necessity of quality higher education and research
    • Research, development and innovation to meet the SDG goals
    • How does countries that have invested in accessible higher education preformed on other development indicators?
    • How can quality higher education contribute to lower youth unemployment in low-income countries?
    • What are the preconditions and frameworks to increase quality (academic freedom, institutional autonomy, governance structures, international cooperation, quality assurance)
  • What does it take to invest in public quality higher education?
    • What are sustainable and reliable options of financing? Stop illicit capital flows and increase taxes?
  • Current trends in ODA spent on higher education by OECD countries What is status quo and what are the opportunities with existing aid to higher education?
  • Policy options for developing countries, donors and international organizations, and recommendations

The report should also have examples from some of SAIHs partner countries (SAIH works in Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Myanmar).

As the budget and time available is limited, the writer/researcher can propose a revised outline as part of the bid (see below).


  • Knowledge of the ongoing discussions in the field of education.
  • Experience with research and/or report writing, and academic qualifications as a minimum a masters degree.

The task can be solved by one writer/researcher with an overview of the field, a team of writers, a consultant functioning as an editor with external chapter writers or otherwise.

Time frame: 

The final report should be delivered to SAIH no later than 15th of April 2018.


The total cost of the project should not exceed 80.000 NOK (including VAT). Submission of bid: 

Please send a proposal for undertaking the task to by February 1st, 2018, noon Norwegian time (UTC+1).

The application should contain:

  • Profile of the writer/researcher with traceable references and copies of/links to previous writings.
  • A brief layout and a breakdown of how the writer/researcher understands and plans carry out the assignment.
  • A budget.

Inception report: 

A brief inception report is expected as part of the initial phase, for clarification between the writer/researcher and SAIH. 

Report specification:

  • The report should be delivered in an electronic version, in English. 
  • The report is expected to be approximately 40-60 pages long.
  • SAIH will organize and cover the costs for design and printing the report on a separate budget.

[1] For relevant data, see Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8, chapter 11. 

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