- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It looked like a miniature U.N. General Assembly. Scholars and educators from around the world — including Morocco, Pakistan, Ecuador and Romania — gathered in the District on Friday for a conference to discuss higher education.

Sponsored by the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program, the conference analyzed challenges and achievements of the global education community. It capped 18 months of coordinated work by 36 researchers from 25 countries, including the United States.

Marianne Craven, the State Department’s managing director for academic programs, said “bilateral cooperation” made the conference significant.

D. Bruce Johnstone, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said: “Higher education is becoming increasingly vital not only to individual opportunities and productive economies, but also to democratic government, social justice and robust civil societies.”

The researchers consider academic policies, cultural norms and financial resources to be among the most influential elements in determining the quality of higher education.

Michele Moses, a scholar at the University of Colorado in Boulder, spent two months in Brazil and said she was overwhelmed by people’s passion for her study there.

Her research focused on discrimination. She said affirmative action, both in Brazil and the United States, was important to procuring access to higher education.

“Education can never be separated from culture,” she said.

Researchers noted more incorporation of the private sector into the education system.

“The trajectory of taxpayer revenues cannot — will not — keep up with the thriving trajectory of resource needs,” Mr. Johnstone said.