Bridging universities and the world: a cross-national analysis of countries’ participation in the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, 1992–2020

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme is a global initiative for higher education institutions around the world. Participants are expected to uphold the values of UNESCO and contribute to the development of a broader society, often beyond national boundaries. Despite the lack of financial incentives, more than 1,300 higher education institutions from 142 countries have been involved since the programme launched in 1992. Drawing on theories concerning both national and global environments, I employ event count analysis to investigate what drives the successful diffusion of the programme and what factors influence countries’ differing levels of participation. The results reveal that participation density, countries’ linkages to world society, existence of the ministry of higher education, and the occurrence of relevant world conferences are positively associated with participation. Developing countries took part more actively in the earlier era during which UNESCO provided seed money to launch programmes.