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In the knowledge-driven global economy, higher education systems play major roles, amongst others, in the pursuit of social development and knowledge and in supporting national economic competitiveness. However, they face immense challenges to meet rising enrolment demand worldwide. The percentage of the age cohort enrolled in tertiary education grew from 19 per cent in 2000 to 26 per cent in 2007, but this growth is uneven and is not accompanied by equivalent increases in human or financial resources to enable universities to accommodate the greater demand.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are increasingly prevalent in higher education; governments and higher education institutions are exploring how best to harness ICT to the benefit of students and teaching staff. As part of this, many institutions are incorporating ICT into their educational programmes in order to serve their students more effectively and to prepare them for the world into which they will graduate. Digital systems are adaptable and flexible and can be personalized to meet a variety of learning needs. In many developing countries, however, access to hardware, software, and connectivity remain challenges. It is critical to adapt pedagogical approaches to this environment, while ensuring high quality and relevant educational opportunities.

In parallel, ICT is dramatically increasing the transfer of information through global communication systems, leading to an explosion in the generation and collective sharing of knowledge. The participation of amateurs in previously specialized disciplinary areas is extending the boundaries of scholarship, while dynamic knowledge creation and social computing tools and processes are becoming more widespread and accepted. This opens opportunities to create and share a greater diversity of learning resources, thereby accommodating a greater diversity of learner needs. The digitization of information, combined with its increasingly widespread dissemination, poses significant challenges to concepts of intellectual property. Copyright regimes and business models for publication are under scrutiny.


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