Dr Carolina Guzmán Valenzuela from the University of Chile examines the consequences of the growth of private universities in Latin America.
With a particular focus on Chile, Dr Guzmán Valenzuela highlights the reasons for this growth, and looks at its effect on access to, and quality of, higher education.
The paper, ‘Global trends and their impact on Latin America: the role of the state and the private sector in the provision of higher education’, traces the impact of global trends in higher education on the region.
The global ‘massification’ of higher education has seen an increasing demand for university places. Many countries are also investing public funds to boost their universities’ world rankings. In much of Latin America, the state is not wealthy enough to finance expenditure in higher education, leading to a burgeoning of private providers. Chile, in particular, has one of the most privatised higher education systems in the world.
Yet there is a tension between achieving broader access and maintaining quality. Latin American universities are not performing well in international rankings. There is also an issue of equity: while the growth of higher education providers has opened up access to a wider section of society, students with lower cultural and social capital are not accessing the most prestigious and selective universities.
Dr Guzmán Valenzuela argues that the problem of stratification in the higher education system – which reflects inequalities in the region – is therefore more present than ever. Any debate about the benefits of public versus private universities must not ignore this fact.