Research > Global Challenges

Global Higher Education & Research

The WUN Global Challenge in Higher Education and Research (GHEAR) addresses the sources, mechanisms, and social structures that give rise to today’s higher education challenges, and works collaboratively across the network to propose reform policies for international research and education.

GHEAR provides a future-oriented global network that focuses on addressing the most urgent challenges related to improving the value of higher education to individuals, communities, nations, and the world – all in the context of a global commitment to sustainable development.


GHEAR is guided by a vision of inclusive universities that, by acting as both a fulcrum and a catalyst for change, are applying their scholarly expertise and actively steering the engagement of higher education with the 21st-century challenges.

GHEAR seeks to leverage the expertise across the WUN network in its ambition to:

  • Promote, through research and scholarship, the ongoing development of equitable, contextually relevant, high quality and accessible higher education throughout the world
  • Investigate and learn about the interactions among the drivers, policies, institutional infrastructure, human capacities, resources, and outcomes that are associated with this overall aim
  • Develop conceptual advances that are of interest to, and may influence the policy and practices of, WUN network members; and have wider impact.

GHEAR is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 in its commitment to leaving none behind. GHEAR will contribute to the following SDGs in particular:

  • SDG 4: Quality Education: ‘Ensure Inclusive and Quality Education for All and Promote Lifelong Learning’ identifies higher education as a key contributor to educational progress at all levels.
  • SDG 10: Reducing Inequalities
  • SDG 17: global partnerships

Research Priorities

  1. Transforming the higher education curriculum for the 21st century

For example, GHEAR is interested in proposals for research that examines:

  • What does de-colonisation of university curriculum mean in different national/institutional and/or disciplinary contexts?
  • What are the contests around social justice frameworks in education in a ‘post-Western’ world?
  • How are the Humanities faring in different WUN universities and how are institutions responding to any challenges identified?

These are indicative suggestions and researchers should feel free to use these and/or develop other questions.

2. Strengthening the legitimacy and authority of the university in a changing world

For example, research into:

  • Contemporary student activism, the different forms it takes in different national contexts, and its role in changing the university and the wider society
  • Transforming systems to reduce inequalities: whose vision? Whose agenda?
  • Local university-community engagements and other forms of dynamic partnerships that address questions of the university’s legitimacy and authority
  • The role of digital media and other sources of ‘authority’ in strengthening or weakening the legitimacy and authority of the university

3. Critically examining/enabling global and local mobilities of people, ideas, programmes, knowledges in higher education

For example, research into:

  • Internationalisation – what does it mean to universities, what values underpin it, how does it intersect with equity?
  • Spatiality in higher education: migration, rural-urban divides, conflict and post-conflict contexts
  • Agenda 2030: how are universities engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals and pledge to Leave No-One Behind?
  • Higher education as a driver of sustainable development
  • WUN itself – how to decolonize the Network and reach out in ways that interrupt increasing stratification in higher education?

Steering Group

The GHEAR Global Challenge Steering Group is made up of experts in the field from across the network. The Steering Group is responsible for guiding the development, focus and research portfolio of the global challenge.

Global Challenge Vice-Chair
Dr Jose Escamilla, Director of Educational Inovations at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico.

Professor Denise Larsen, University of Alberta
Professor Nancy November, The University of Auckland
Professor Katja Enberg, University of Bergen
Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak, University of Cape Town
Professor Manhong Lai, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Dr Fred Kofi Boateng, University of Ghana
Dr Emmanuel Sylvestre, University of Lausanne
Dr Ellen Bastiaens, University of Maastricht
Dr Ronald Bisaso, Makerere University
Professor Wei-Cheng Lo, National Cheng Kung University
Assistant Professor Pan Kunfeng, Renmin University of China
Associate Professor Jayne Lammers, University of Rochester
Dr Valerie Lou, University of Rochester
Dr Will Baker, University of Southampton
Dr Jiao Jiao (JJ) Li, University of Technology Sydney

For more information, please contact Aoiffe Corcoran at the WUN Secretariat.

Research Projects: Global Higher Education & Research

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