The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations will oblige Latin American universities to transform their education policies, democratize knowledge and boost cooperation, said former Dominican President Leonel Fernández Reyna (2004-2012).
During the inaugural lecture of the International Conference of the National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education (Anuies) that takes place in Guadalajara (western Mexico) until November 24, Fernandez affirmed that one of the challenges for 2030 is to face to the growing educational demand that will bring “a redefinition of curricular contents”.
The massification of education will force us to leave behind the idea of ”elite universities” to give way to universal access to education that responds to demographic growth and the migration of young people from rural areas to cities, he said. President of the European Union-Latin America and the Caribbean Foundation.
He said that by 2025 it is expected that there will be 262 million university students in the world, 112 million more than in 2010. In Latin America and the Caribbean it is expected that by that same year universities will host between 32 and 35 million students.
This growing demand will force public institutions to think about new financing patterns because “the State alone will no longer be able to cover the expenses derived from this overcrowding”.
“Therefore, we will have to wait for an increase in the number of private universities” and more schools and training centers for employment and technological education, he added.
The exmandatario recalled that Latin American institutions do not appear in the world ranking of prestigious universities. The most outstanding is the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the first in Latin America but located on the 138th world site.
“We have mid-level universities and, therefore, a future goal to fully comply with the Sustainable Development Goals is how to achieve world-class universities,” he said.
He explained that higher education institutions in the continent should take advantage of the trend of globalization that aims at greater student mobility, designing academic programs through virtual campuses that combine face-to-face and online modalities, and encouraging their students, teachers and researchers to make exchanges.
He argued that universities should not fear the brain drain, as one of the trends in the coming years is the concept of “circular brain”, in which students go to graduate school and return to their place of origin, but continue participating in events, projects and professional activities in other countries.
This allows them to feed themselves, create networks and get to know new bibliographical sources to return to their country more motivated to do their work, he said.
Fernandez said that the knowledge society will take educational institutions to a “university to development” model, in which they link up with companies to generate wealth with a social impact, turning them into “an axis at the service of development”.
The Anuies International Conference brings together dozens of rectors, directors, teachers, researchers and higher education specialists from Mexican and Latin American educational institutions to discuss challenges and possible partnerships for sustainable development.