CGHE Webinar 305

‘Higher education and knowledge in Latin America past, present and future’ series – webinar 2: The World Class University, regional responses and academic careers in Latin America

Date: Tuesday, 5 July 2022 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom webinar
  • CHAIR: Martin Benavides, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), Peru
  • Monica Bonifaz, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Peru
  • Imanol Ordorika, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico

Event Materials

This event is now archived and we are pleased to provide the following event media and assets, along with the original event overview.

Armoured cars at the Zócalo (the central square) in Mexico City in 1968 during the large scale social mobilisation led by the student movement. The 1968 demonstrations, part of the worldwide wave of protest that year, were violently repressed but led to lasting changes in Mexico’s society and polity.

Webinar 2 in this series focuses on the institutional dimension of higher education in Latin America. Universities in the region are openly and reflexively shaped by their history and social-political context. Student movements in the early twentieth century deeply impacted the universities and contributed to the establishment of a shared tradition for higher education in the region. The most salient features of this tradition were the emphases on university autonomy, shared governance and strong social commitment, with the leading public institutions positioned in a pivotal role in state and nation building in the post-colonial setting. The demise of the welfare state in the late 1970s and the emergence of the neo-liberal era in economic policy led to the advent of a new hegemonic model, based on romanticised and idealised notions of the elite research university in the US, the ‘World-Class University’, which after 2004 was installed and normmalised by global university rankings. This destabilized the endogenous Latin American tradition, divided the institutions internally and triggered ongoing performance dilemmas and identarian and structural crises that continue. What is the ongoing purpose of higher education, student self-formation and faculty work? How can Latin American institutions both draw from and contribute to global science and scholarship, while also advancing nation-building agendas and distinctive cultural contributions? Does the Latin American work only for itself and its own prestige or does it have a larger social and political mission, wider than its contribution to measured economic growth? How important is it to contribute to global bibliometrics? If competitive university rankings are inadequate and regressive as a standard of value, are there better approaches, and who should decide what universities do? What is the ethical and practical basis for a professional career in the national-regional-global setting, amid these different agendas? What is the mission and destiny of students and graduates?

Imanol Ordorika will discuss how as the limits of neoliberalism in broader economic and social policies have become more evident, the recreation of a Latin American tradition of higher education has come to the fore in national and regional debates. Periodically strong student mobilisations across the continent have critiqued and resisted the World-Class University hegemonic model. Issues of the role of the university in social commitment and transformation, institutional autonomy, the democratisation of university governance and participation, gender equality, and universal enrolment and affirmative action in admission, continue to be debated. Unsettled question of state financial responsibility and tuition-free access are a key fault line in the governance of higher education in Latin America and a trigger of large-scale political mobilisations.

At the same time, as Mónica Bonifaz will discuss, in some countries in Latin America private sector institutions face a distinctive set of questions, issues and dilemmas in relation to their national contribution and their inner institutional life. These universities carry an important part of scientific academic production and much depends on their ability to access public and private funds, and on whether they have a critical masses of researchers. The conditions that affect them are not simply global or government policy-driven, they also have organisational dimensions as well. One such internal dimension is the influence of the historical legacies of the traditional Latin American universities. What are the ways forward for private institutions and faculty work and careers amid global models, national politics and the tensions between past and future?

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.

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