Higher education is often seen as an important investment in dealing with large socioeconomic problems and the key to breaking through barriers to national advancement, economic development, and civil society growth. Home to a quarter of the world’s population, South Asia’s industry and service sectors are growing and creating jobs that require skilled workers. To that effect, many countries in South Asia have recently invested more resources into their higher education systems. Enrollment rates for universities in the region have increased 50 percent over the past ten years, as access has improved and national economies have grown.

In order to address some of the challenges faced in higher education, to share experiences and best practices and to promote new regional partnerships, the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, in partnership and support with the United States Embassy in Kabul, organized the South Asia Higher Education Symposium: New Regional Approaches.  The symposium was held in Istanbul, Turkey from 23-28 April, 2019.


Fifty senior higher education administrators and ministry officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and educators from around the world convened in Istanbul, Turkey. The goals of the four-day symposium were:

  • to gain a better understanding of the higher educational landscape in South Asia;
  • to enhance skills in the areas of curriculum development and reform, quality assurance and accreditation, e-learning and distance education; and
  • to build external relations with various stakeholders.

Instructive panels led by subject matter experts were combined with interactive workshops led by participants to achieve the above goals. The symposium served as a platform to share best practices, build connections among senior level educators from South Asia, and create university partnerships.