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They came from Australia, Africa, North America, Asia and Europe.  For the first time in five years, 17 organisations representing students across the globe came together in Paris last week at an official preparatory conference for the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE), scheduled for July 2009.  The conclusion of the meeting: student rights are violated all across the globe, and student bodies now want UNESCO to set up a global ombuds office that deals with breaches of student rights.

The WCHE 2009 is a follow-up both to the first one held in 1998 and to the Meeting of Higher Education Partners in 2003.  However, while student organisations have been given a place at the conference table as a key stakeholder, no provision had been made for these organisations to meet separately in order to collaborate on their specific areas of interest and develop a common approach to the WCHE.  Last week’s meeting was therefore the result of an initiative by the European Students’ Union (ESU) through its International Cooperation Working Group (ICWG), which is run by member organisations VSS-UNES-USU (Switzerland) and NSU (Norway).  The goal was to fill this gap in international student cooperation, in collaboration with partners UNESCO and Education International.

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