World access to Higher Education Day

Wednesday 24 May 2017 -
11:30 to 12:45

Opening access to higher education (HE) globally will require new and innovative thinking. Inequalities in HE by social background are pervasive across cities, countries and institutions. For HE to realise its full potential and benefit all of society, it must become equitable.

Achieving equitable access to HE is challenging and needs advocacy, innovative thinking and engagement of new stakeholders. The growing importance of cities in driving the progress of nations poses new challenges and opportunities where equitable access to HE is concerned. The University of Edinburgh, working with the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) from the UK, will outline new visionary action in the equitable access to HE field which provides the framework for global collaboration between cities from across the world. This presentation will outline the vision and rationale for World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) and invite participation from delegates. 

WAHED will initiate a new global consortium to combine policy advocacy and practice innovation in access and diversity in HE. HE providers as well as policy makers and those from the voluntary/private sectors working in urban environments need to be at the centre of this consortium. WAHED will be co-ordinated by a partnership of globally leading universities and networks that represent Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean. 

To help set the context, Graham Atherton from NEON will share new research which explores the relationship between global cities and inequalities in access to HE. This will be followed by an interactive panel debate in which the audience will be asked to contribute. We will then discuss how to advocate across national boundaries for widening access to HE, and the potential for a ‘World Access to Higher Education Day’ in 2018.


  • Sue Welburn, Director of Global Projects, University of Edinburgh, UK (Chair)
  • Dr Graeme Atherton, Director, National Education Opportunities Network (NEON), UK 
  • Abigail Laneta, Assistant Director/ Head of Education, Youth and Sports Division Human Development Directorate, ASEAN 
  • Dr Sijbolt Noorda, President, Magna Charta Observatory, Italy
  • Joseph M. Vilalta, Executive Secretary, Association of Public Universities of Catalonia (ACUP), Spain