UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme

Parallel form(s) of name

  • Programme UNITWIN et chaires UNESCO

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence



The 1990-1995 Medium-Term Plan, adopted by the General Conference at its 25th session (1989), called for a concerted international plan of action for strengthening inter-university cooperation and measures to counter the decline of higher education institutions in developing countries. The Secretariat elaborated the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme in response and it was approved by the 26th Session of the General Conference in 1991, and established the following year (Brovetto and van Dijk, 2000). The Programme also has the aim of reducing the reliance on external scientific and technical assistance in developing countries by building national capacity (Natural Sciences Sector, 2009).

UNITWIN is the abbreviation for university twinning and networking. UNITWIN networks are comprised of several universities in different countries who sign a joint agreement with UNESCO in order to collaborate for research, training, knowledge-sharing and academic exchange. The network is formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding covering 6 years. UNESCO Chairs are established in a University or other higher education institution for a period of four years upon the signature of an agreement between UNESCO and the University. In 1993, the guidelines were clarified to note that agreements should be first approved by National Commissions (General Conference, 1993). UNITWIN networks are described as “bridge-builders” and Chairs are described as “think-tanks,” but the distinction is not firm, as a Chair may become the nuclei of a Network, or a Network may lead to the creation of new Chairs (UNESCO, 2007; Executive Board, 1992). UNITWIN networks and UNESCO Chairs do not normally receive financing from UNESCO, but they may exceptionally receive “seed” money from the budget of the regular programme, or receive funding through the Participation Programme following a request made by a member state (UNESCO, 2007).

UNESCO’s Division of Higher Education provided the Secretariat for the Programme since its creation in 1992. After a restructuring in 2010, the Division became the Division of Basic to Higher Education and Learning with a Section for Higher Education. This unit coordinates UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs activities carried out by programme sectors, field offices, Institutes and Centres. There is also an Intersectorial Committee for the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme which helps to ensure the intersectoral and interdisciplinary nature of the Programme as well as its alignment with regular programme activities.

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme has been audited and reviewed on several occasions since its creation. An internal review was conducted in 1996, followed by an external audit in 2000. In 2002, the World Forum of UNESCO Chairs met and issued a series of recommendations. The Programme guidelines and procedures were revised at this time. They were revised again in 2007 when the Executive Board adopted a new strategic orientation for the Programme in order to address deficiencies noted in past reviews such as a geographic imbalance in favour of the North, lack of interaction of existing Chairs with UNESCO programme activities, and ‘inflation’ of new projects without linking back to already established Chairs in a given field. The revised guidelines gave priority to projects that encouraged North-South, South-South and North-South-South cooperation as well as encouraging the creation of poles of excellence at the regional or sub-regional level (UNESCO, 2007). As of 2007, there were 661 projects. In 2013, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme involved 854 institutions in 134 countries.


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Internal structures/genealogy

General context

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Rules and/or conventions used

Following RAD Rule 24.1A, authorized form of name comes from UNESDOC (English) and UNESCO Terminology database (French).


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created by AWT 3-12-2013.




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