Access and success


Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education has been one of IAU priority theme for the past five years. In 2008, the IAU General Conference adopted a new Policy Statement entitled Equitable Access and Success in Quality Higher Education (which has now been signed and endorsed by many university associations from around the world). Moving from statement to action, IAU has recently worked on a new project.


In responding to the multiple imperatives that drive our global knowledge-based economy and society, national governments recognize the need for high quality higher education for all. Preparing its citizens for the 21st century by sustaining or developing a globally competitive research/innovation base and raising employability skills are goals pursued by most, despite different national contexts. Gaining access to learning, and successful participation in higher education is becoming essential for all.

Against this backdrop, and noting a renewed sense of urgency, IAU adopted the issues of Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education as one if its priority themes during the 69th IAU Administrative Board Meeting (Alexandria, Egypt, November 12-15, 2005). It mandated an international Task Force of experts, to further the work on this topic. During the three following years, the IAU Secretariat and the Task Force worked jointly on the design of a new Policy Statement and, in 2008, the IAU General Conference adopted Equitable Access and Success in Quality Higher Education as the IAU latest Policy Statement. To learn more about the preparation of this Policy statement please click here.

2014/2015 - The IAU supports the GAPS initiative

Global Access to Postsecondary Education (GAPS) aims to bring together those from across sectors and countries to meet this global challenge via advocacy and action. It has 5 objectives:

  1. To make the evidence based case for increasing access to post-secondary education.
  2. To instigate the cultural transformation in organizations necessary to achieve our vision.
  3. To build a global network committed to increasing access to postsecondary education from the public, private, voluntary sectors and policymakers
  4. To place students and young people at the core of efforts to improve access to and success in postsecondary education.
  5. To initiate innovative exemplar projects supporting participation in postsecondary education which can be scaled up globally.

GAPS began in October 2013 at the first World Congress on Access to Postsecondary Education held in Montreal. Almost 250 people from nearly 40 countries around the world came together to explore the challenges associated with widening access to postsecondary education. GAPS is led by a consortium of organizations including the International Association of Universities, the Lumina Foundation and Educational Testing Service (ETS) from the USA, NEON (National Education Opportunities Network) in England and the ECHO Foundation from the Netherlands, and supported by the European Access Network (EAN). To learn more about this initiative please visit its website:

2013 - The IAU participated in two major initiatives

A. The first World Congress on Access to Postsecondary Education

Participants World Congress wshp With the approval of the Administrative Board, and using funds from the ISIC Award, the IAU issued an invitation to all institutional Members in Good Standing to come forward if they were interested in taking part in a similar exercise as in 2010, namely undertake a self-assessment and participate in an international workshop to share lessons learned and their experiences with others. The Call for Expressions of interest was issued in February 2013 and more than 65 IAU Members responded positively.

During the first stage, the selected institutions (10) used a revised version of the self-assessment tool and reported their findings to IAU. This second project helped IAU to test the validity and usefulness of the instrument in a variety of contexts. The IAU compiled the results and prepared a report on equitable access and success policies and programmes in this sample of HEIs.

The second stage of the project brought the representatives of the participating universities together for a half-day workshop where they compared and contrasted their experiences on specific themes related to equitable access and success in HE. This workshop was part of the programme of the first World Congress on Access to Postsecondary Education: Connected the Unconnected (7-10 October 2013, Montreal, QC, Canada - organized by the European Access Network (EAN). Through this IAU - EAN partnership, IAU Members were also able to take part of the Congress at reduced rates. The outcomes of the workshop discussion were also presented during the Congress. To access the report of this IAU project please click here.

B. Developing a multi-dimensional analysis of Romanian HEIs with a focus on access and social cohesion policies

A second activity within this priority theme was a project in Romania. The Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI) invited the Secretary General of IAU to coordinate a study on higher education policy on social cohesion both at state and at institutional level. This was part of the country’s recent higher education reforms which involved the development of a classification of HEIs and a ranking of study programs managed by UEFISCDI. The study in which IAU was involved was part of a large project to increase the capacity of public administration for evidence-based policy making: “Higher Education Evidence Based Policy Making: a necessary premise for progress in Romania”.
IAU was asked to work on two dimensions: internationalization of higher education and equity/social cohesion. It was agreed that two distinct working groups composed of Romanian and international experts would each focus on one of these two areas, both coordinated by IAU and supported by IAU and UEFISCDI staff.

The project methodology in both areas was the same and included workshops, policy analysis and case studies by 3-4 Romanian universities, site visits and a conference. In the case of equity and social cohesion, the IAU self-assessment instrument on equity in access and success was used by the selected Romanian universities, having been adapted to some extent to the Romanian context. The expected results of this initiative included an overview of Romanian institutional policy with regard to equity and social cohesion paying special attention to overarching trends or consistent omissions that could be addressed in policy recommendations; an analysis of Romanian national policy with regard to this area; and, based on the findings at both levels, a set of policy recommendations targeted at policy makers in public institutions, the National Ministry of Education and other agencies. A final conference, on equity and equality of chances was organized as a stakeholders’ consultation and dissemination event for this activity in November 2013.

IAU-identified experts included Jamil Salmi formerly of the World Bank who had worked with IAU on the pilot project mentioned-below, Mary Tupan-Wenno, President of the European Access Network (EAN) (the Netherlands), and Claudio Dondi, President SCIENTER (Italy). The project was coordinated by Eva Egron-Polak in collaboration with Élodie Boisfer.

2012 - ISIC 2012 Award

ISIC Award 2012 On 23 May 2012, the Association received the 2012 ISIC Award (see: recognition for its work to promote issues of widening participation and success in higher education which began with the statement mentioned above. The IAU received €20,000.00 to support the continuation of its work to reduce barriers to education opportunities.

2011 - IAU Annual international Conference: Strategies for Securing Equity in Access and Success in Higher Education

The IAU 2011 International Conference was hosted by Kenyatta University (KU) in Nairobi, Kenya from 14 to 16 November 2012. It examined the extent to which government and institutional policies and programs around the world seek and succeed in responding to the imperative of increasing equitable access and success in higher education. The goals are clear and easily stated. Achieving the objectives is far more complex and requires clarity of purpose, shared commitment, adequate resources and expertise and time.

To learn more about this conference, to glance through the programme and read some of the presentations, please click here.

2010 - IAU Pilot Project

Ten higher education institutions in Asia and the Americas joined the IAU pilot project on Equitable Access and Success in Quality Higher Education designed to learn more about and share lessons about institutional approaches to improving both entry and progression for students from under-represented groups.

Working in collaboration with members of its international Task Force, the IAU designed an Institutional Self-Assessment Instrument to enable institutions to examine their policies and programs for improving access and success for learners from usually marginalized groups. The questionnaire is also designed to help universities collect information and analyze their practices in this area. The ten pilot institutions are from ten different countries in the Americas and Asia and are quite diverse in profile. This pilot project received support from the World Bank. The results obtained allowed the IAU to produce a comparative review of access and success programs in the pilot universities.

Workshop participants On 18 and 19 November 2010, the International Association of Universities, the University of Arizona and The World Bank co-organized, with the support of Lumina Foundation (USA), a two-day workshop in Tucson (Arizona, USA) bringing together representatives of the universities involved in the IAU pilot project, as well as Members of the IAU Task Force and several other experts from the United States and the United Kingdom.

This workshop was designed to probe further the findings of the 10 universities which undertook a critical self-assessment of their policies and practices in regards with the issues of equitable access and success (retention). It also served as an opportunity for the participating HEIs to meet and learn from each other. How do institutions attract learners who are in one way or another marginalized in their nations? Who are these under-represented minorities? How do institutions assess their potential and how do they accompany these students’ progress were among some of the questions guiding the discussion over these two days.

The Workshop participants were Rectors, Vice Rectors, and senior leaders responsible for policy development in this area. They were also invited to critically review the Institutional Self-Assessment Instrument developed by IAU and applied by them in preparation for the Workshop. Testing this instrument among a highly diverse set of pilot universities was deemed a way to help IAU determine the potential for an even more generalized use of this tool around the globe.

Last but not least, this meeting was an opportunity for the IAU with its Task Force, partners and participating universities, to determine what next steps as well as other initiatives the Association could develop to pursue the ‘equitable access and success agenda’. A brief report of the workshop is also available.

If you would like to share information on Access and Success (upcoming conferences, articles, seminars, research papers, innovative policies, effective practices etc.) please contact:


2010 / 2011 - Equitable Chances: IAU’s Actions to Promote Access and Success in Higher Education

Equitable Chances A new booklet, summarizing the IAU’s work on the theme of Equitable Access and Success in higher education was produced in 2011.

Following the adoption of the Policy Statement entitled Equitable Access and Success in Quality Higher Education (please see below), the IAU launched, in 2010, a pilot project on the issues of equitable access and success. Ten pilot HEIs from Asia and the Americas took part in the project designed to learn what approaches these institutions put in place to improve both entry and progression for students from under-represented groups (to learn more about this project, please click [here].

This booklet was produced and introduced on the occasion of the IAU 2011 International Conference in Kenya, and was disseminated to all the IAU Members in February 2012. It presents the actions and results the Association has achieved so far in regards to the twin issues of equitable access and success in higher education. This pilot project benefited from the on-going advice of the IAU international Task Force focusing on Access and success. The IAU also gratefully accepted financial and in-kind support from the World Bank, Lumina Foundation and the University of Arizona.

To download the booklet, please click here

2008 - Policy Statement:

Equitable Access, Success and Quality in Higher Education: A Policy Statement by the International Association of Universities advocates a number of key principles upheld by IAU and includes recommendations for both higher education institutions and governments. It is the result of a broad-based consultation among IAU Members and experts, which probably explains the ease with which the Statement was approved and adopted at the 13th IAU General Conference, July 15-18, 2008 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

This newest IAU Policy Statement has been widely disseminated to IAU Members as well as to all national, regional and international associations of universities, IAU invites endorsement of the Statement by those interested and committed to its principles. The Statement has also been sent to UNESCO in the hope that its substance may provide input to the deliberations and final outcomes of the World Conference on Higher Education, organised by UNESCO’s Higher Education Division for July 2009, in Paris, France.

The Policy Statement has been endorsed by the following:

  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
  • The Association of African Universities (AAU)
  • Association of Arab Universities (AArU)
  • Association of National Universities of Taiwan, China, Taiwan
  • Association of Universities of Bangladesh
  • Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)
  • Association Suisse des Enseignant-e-s d'Université
  • European Access Network (EAN)
  • Heads of Universities Committee (HUCOM), China, Hong Kong
  • Universities Denmark
  • Universities Australia

Should your association wish to endorse this Policy Statement, please contact:

Working Group

This Working Group is chaired by a member of the Administrative Board and can, in addition to Administrative Board members, include experts from any IAU Member institution or organization. Building on the IAU policy Statement: Equitable Access, Success and Quality in Higher Education and the related activities, the Working Group advises the Administrative Board and the Secretary General on possible actions that would improve IAU’s contribution to the efforts of widening participation and success in higher education by all learners and especially those from groups otherwise less represented. The Working Group provides recommendations on how to extend the work undertaken by IAU to date and is also invited to propose new avenues to pursue by the Association within this policy area in the interest of IAU Members. The Chair and Members of the Working Group are:


  • Hope C. SADZA, Vice-Chancellor, Women's University in Africa, Zimbabwe


  • Manuel J. FERNOS, President, Inter American University of Puerto Rico
  • Sir Howard NEWBY, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, UK
  • Remus PRICOPIE, Minister of Education and Former Rector, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Romania
  • Godehard RUPPERT, Chairman, Bavarian University Association, Germany
  • Juan TOBIAS, Rector, University of Salvador, Argentina

IAU Secretariat

  • Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General
  • Élodie Boisfer, Programme Officer


Selected Bibliography on Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education1:


Access and equity: comparative perspectives / Heather Eggins. - Rotterdam : Sense, 2010 . - 169 p. References.Tables. - ISBN 9789460911842

The next 25 years : affirmative action in the United States and South Africa / David L Featherman, Martin Hall, Marvin Krislov, Eds. . - Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2010 . - 389 p. ISBN 978-0-472-03377-5
Abstract: This book explores the history and future place of affirmative action in higher education. Comparative essays describe debates in the United States and South Africa to elucidate the legal, political, social, economic and moral dimensions of affirmative action in higher education and its role in creating a more equitable society. While affirmative action policies have been restricted in the United States by the Constitution, in South Africa equity policies are legally required to address continuing disadvantage. The historic and legal contexts in which affirmative action arose in both countries is described and the key legal rulings concerning affirmative action policies at universities presented. The contribution of higher education participation to labour market access and social mobility is also examined. In South Africa, despite increasing participation by black students, a two-tiered higher education system persists. The book also explores research on the importance of student diversity on intellectual engagement, academic achievement and civic engagement. Finally, the book discusses whether there is a continued need for affirmative action.

The Perpetual Education Fund: providing higher education loans in the voluntary sector / Benjamin J. Lough . - In: International Journal of Educational Development, v. 30, no. 4, pp. 345-350, 2010 Incl. abstract, bibl. . - ISSN 0738-0593
Abstract : Although many strategies are proposed to reduce the opportunity gap in higher education between and within countries, student loans with cost recovery measures are often preferred during times of fiscal constraint. This study briefly reviews the benefits and challenges of student loans over other forms of financial aid and presents the case for voluntary sector involvement in contexts where government and market failures constrain effective solutions. It describes an innovative program that has emerged to meet this challenge - the Perpetual Education Fund. This program utilizes public-private partnerships, a large financial corpus, pre-existing administrative structures, personal relationships, local vocational schooling, and intergroup solidarity to administer loans and recover costs. Because voluntary sector participation in loan financing and administration is relatively new, the experiences and innovative survival strategies of this program have valuable implications for other emerging programs.

Should you wish to read more about the issues of equitable access and success in higher education around the world and/or find more references, please do not hesitate to consult the International Bibliographic Database on Higher Education (HEDBIB) or contact

See the full bibliography

Selected Links on Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education

See more links

Related Initiatives

  • 5-8 October 2015, Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, GAPS Kuala Lumpur 2015: Meeting the global challenge of building equitable knowledge economies - More information - The IAU, one of the partners supporting the Global Access to Post-Secondary Education (GAPS) initiative, is pleased to announce the Kuala Lumpur Meeting.

  • 1-3 July 2015, University of South Wales, Treforest campus, UK, FACE 2015 Annual Conference - Closing the Gap: Bridges for Access and Lifelong Learning - More information

  • 13-19 June 2015, United-Kingdom, Adult Learners' Week 2015 - Adult Learners’ Week is the UK’s largest and longest running learning campaign. Held each year, it encourages thousands of adults, whatever their age and background, to give learning a go - More information

  • 7-9 June 2015, Hotel Bristol Conference Centre, Oslo, Norway, 24th EAN Annual Conference - Advocating for access, equity, inclusion and diversity in higher education: Politics, Policies, Power and Persuasion - More information

  1. The different lists proposed below are neither exhaustive, nor representative. They serve as an interactive, dynamic listing of interesting projects, conferences, papers and/or organizations involved with access and success issues in several parts of the world. If you have recently attended an exciting conference on access, written or read an article/paper/dissertation or book on the topic and would like to share this, send us the information!