Trends in higher education in the world and in Latin America and the Caribbean

Trends in higher education in the world and in Latin America and the Caribbean

Francisco Lopez Segrera

technology PhD in Latin American Studies (Paris VIII, Sorbonne). Vice-rector of the Institute of International Relations of Cuba (ISRI) 1974-1988. He worked at UNESCO between 1994 and 2002, where he served as Regional Advisor for Social Sciences and Director of the International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC). His latest published book on higher education is World Scenarios of Higher Education. CLACSO, 2006. He is a member of the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge. Member of the CLACSO Working Group on University and Society. He currently works as an Academic Advisor to the Global University Network for Innovation. Email: [email protected]

(prepared by the editors): This chapter is a comparative international higher education exercise that provides a synthesis of the main trends in higher education globally and in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also shows key facts and figures, with the aim of giving the reader an approximation to the object of study.

Keywords: International Higher Education. Latin America and the Caribbean. Higher Education and Globalization. Trends and challenges of Higher Education.

This chapter is an attempt at discussing international higher education from a comparative perspective. It presents a synthesis of the main trends of higher education in the world and in Latin America and the Caribbean countries. It also shows key data and numbers, with the purpose of introducing the reader to the object of study.

Keywords: International higher education. Latin American and Caribbean countries. Higher education and globalization. Trends and challenges of higher education.

1. Higher Education and Globalization

Universities face one of the most interesting, uncertain and complex times, since globalization implies the possibility of taking advantage of important opportunities, but also serious challenges and problems in relation to the future, by questioning the ideal of the public and the common good. The traditional values of the University are still valid (autonomy, academic freedom, research, student work, evaluation), but they are threatened values in the context of globalization.

Globalization is an irreversible phenomenon. What should concern us is the kind of globalization that is going to prevail. Should we accept in universities the most negative aspects of globalisation – such as, for example, new profit-making suppliers – or should we dedicate ourselves to building a global society that responds to ideals of greater and solidarity, to human and social development?

The aim of analysing these issues is to contribute to promoting the necessary transformations of the main trends in SE. Such as: quantitative easing; increasing privatization; institutional diversification; the growth of restrictions on public financing. In order to provide an adequate response to pressing problems such as: the reduction of public investment, inadequate government policies, and the rigid and inflexible structure of relations with the productive sector. Universities have to deal with these problems nationally and internationally, especially in developing countries.

In the documents of “The World Conference on Higher Education” (1998), convened by UNESCO, and in the Follow-up Commissions of that Conference, valuable suggestions were made on how to face the most urgent challenges. For example: the permanent updating of teachers, contents and curriculum; the introduction of electronic networks for learning; translation and adaptation of the main scientific contributions; modernisation of management and management systems; and integration and complementation of public and private education as well as formal, informal and distance education.

2. The mission of higher education today: Major trends, contributions and challenges.

1. Overcrowding: The global gross enrollment rate (MBR) went from 13 million university students in 1960 to 137 million in 2005. (UNESCO, 2007, p. 132)

2. Education has become permanent given the exponential growth of knowledge: in 2005 US corporations spent 15 billion dollars to train their employees.

3. The rise of ICT means that equipping a university is much more expensive. The exclusion of them implies the segregation of the state of the art of the knowledge society.

4. The vertiginous increase in international academic mobility favors students from developed countries and certain Asian countries and tends to increase the “brain drain”.

5. The privatization of higher education is increasing rapidly in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, in Asia and in the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia. Only in the regions of Western Europe and Africa does public higher education, funded almost entirely by the State, continue to predominate.

6. The crisis in the academic profession is an acute phenomenon in developing countries, but it also affects teachers in the developed world. The World Bank’s advice that teachers become knowledge entrepreneurs by working as consultants (Makerere) to supplement their salary has had devastating effects on research and teacher development through study and has sometimes led to practices of academic corruption.

7. Inequity in access based on gender, ethnic, religious or social class continues to deprive many with sufficient merits to pursue university studies. In Brazil, for example, of five quintiles, 74% of students studying in universities belong to the highest quintile and only 4% to the lowest quintile.

8. The drive towards improved management procedures, evaluation, accountability and accreditation processes has often been positive. However, on more than one occasion they have been characterized by their bureaucratic and formal aspect, and on other occasions they have served as a pretext for accelerating processes of privatization or reduction of state funds.

9. There is a lack of updating and flexibility in the curriculum of most HEIs and in postgraduate courses, with the exception of a minority of national public universities and a few quality private ones.

10. The private higher education HEIs are the highest level (Harvard, ITAM, Catholic universities) and the lowest level simultaneously (garage or duckling universities). The latter are called “demand absorption”, since they will be studied by all those who do not have the requirements to access elite private universities or public ones.

11. Another new phenomenon is the emergence of “pseudo-universities”, institutions that do not correspond to the traditional definition of the university, but offer “specialized training in a variety of areas”. Most of them are for-profit entities whose essential concern is not the values or the quality of teaching, but to make profits. As examples we can put the University of Phoenix that belongs to the Apollo Group. (Altbach, 2006, p. 204. Didou, 2005)

12. One of the negative consequences of economic globalization and privatization trends for higher education referred to is the WTO’s proposal to include it as a service subject to GATS regulations. Although this proposal has not yet been approved, the countries – USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan – that obtain significant profits from foreign students strongly defend this initiative.

13. There is a tendency for HEIs in developing countries to apply to be accredited by accreditation agencies of foreign countries, especially the United States, without realizing that these agencies do not know the values and needs of indigenous development because they are shaped for another reality. It may be positive to invite experts to join national accreditation teams, but provided that these processes are based on indigenous values, standards and needs.