‘Higher education and knowledge in Latin America past, present and future’ series – webinar 1: Political economy of higher education reforms in Latin America

30th June 2022 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: CHAIR: Carolina Guzmán Valenzuela, Universidad de Tarapacá, Chile; Martin Benavides, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), Peru; Marcela Mollis, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Webinar co-organised with Umbral, Observatory of Higher Education of the Consortium of Universities.

Higher education reforms in Latin America is situated in a geopolitical space that is heterogeneous and diverse in economic, sociological and cultural terms. Any attempt to homogenise the reform process falls into an historical error. Although the region is Spanish-speaking, Brazil inherited the Portuguese Lusitanian legacy and the modernization of higher education especially at the graduate level, took place during the 1960s following the North American model. The region, based on the emancipating role of the bourgeois revolutions of the 19th century that left behind the cultural domination of the Catholic Church of Jesuit institutions, imported the European model of lay universities that trained independent professionals or future civil servants. European cultural modernisation obturated the identities of precolonial civilisations, promoting the development of dependent economies of the metropolis, subjected to the political ups and downs between military dictatorships and civilian democratic governments of different ideologies: liberal, neoliberal, populist, governments of left and right.

In this heterogeneous socio-historical context, Marcela Mollis will unveil the common and at the same time singular features of higher education reforms In the region, from the 1990’s to the first decade of the second millennium. Martin Benavides will discuss the case of higher education in Peru where a familiar massification model based on rapid private college expansion has stimulated educational business while undermining educational quality.

About the CGHE webinar series on higher education and knowledge in Latin America past, present and future

Latin American countries and their universities share a common historical legacy although each national systems in the region exhibits its own particularities and richness. The first universities in Latin America were established half a century after Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492. Since then, thousands of universities have opened, evolved or disappeared in response to national developments and needs, and global trends.

A key feature that characterises Latin American universities is their autonomy. During colonial times, universities progressively gained autonomy from the Catholic church. After independence the universities were intent on supporting nation building and focused on professional training but during the first three decades of the nineteenth century, the Cordoba movement in Argentina had a significant role in reasserting university autonomy across the region. It promoted both university self-governance and wider participation. Students pursued the modernisation of universities within larger agendas of democracy, academic freedom and social responsibility.

Between the 1970s and the 1990s Latin American Universities and academics were repressed and punished by military dictatorships. They also experienced massification and recurring financial crises, trends that continued after the 1990s, and a growing emphasis on evaluation and accreditation.

Latin American universities, like many universities around the world, are now shaped by internationalisation, privatisation and marketisation trends. They still need to defend and advance their autonomy. They also need to improve their research and knowledge production while helping to advance social changes and a more equal society. Many Latin American universities have been working on agendas of widening participation and inclusivity. They have also been wrestling with their colonial past, which has continuing implications for the review and transformation of their local, national and global roles. The role of intercultural universities in decolonising the curriculum has been an important development.

In this CGHE webinar series the speakers and participant audiences will examine key challenges for Latin American higher education. While reviewing the past and investigating the present, the webinars highlight crucial aspects of higher education in the region that provide insights into the future. The first webinar on 30 June discusses political and economic aspects of higher education reforms in Latin America. The second webinar on 5 July considers the impact of university rankings and the concept of ‘world class universities’ on the institutions and in academic careers, and the implications for regional university autonomy and development. The third webinar on 7 July dissects internationalisation and student mobility in and beyond the region. The final webinar in the series on 12 July tackles the big underlying issue of the past, present and future, the decolonisation of universities and knowledge in Latin America and the role of intercultural education as a strategy of decolonisation.

The series is organised by Martin Benavides Abanto from Peru, Carolina Guzmán-Valenzuela of Chile and CGHE’s Simon Marginson, with the help of CGHE Director of Communications Trevor Treharne and colleagues throughout the region.

You need to register individually for each webinar in the series. You can register for the other webinars in the series here.