22 SES 07 A, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
Parallel Paper Session
Latin America has been strongly influenced by European notions of the university, particularly the ‘Humboldtian’ model. However, reforms undertaken initially in the University of Córdoba in Argentina in 1918 ushered in a new era, leading to the emergence of a distinctively Latin American model, with a commitment to democratic management, expansion of access and public service (Bernasconi 2007). Nevertheless, in recent years the region has not been immune to the influence of new paradigms such as the ‘entrepreneurial’ university, and moves towards commodification of knowledge and marketisation of entry (Slaughter & Leslie 1997).
In relation to other countries in Latin America, Brazil was a slow starter, with the first university only established in 1920. Despite the considerable expansion of higher education in recent years, the system is still characterised by extreme inequalities (INEP 2009). Most of the expansion has taken place in newly formed private institutions, offering courses of questionable quality, with little research and few opportunities for broader learning beyond narrowly defined course content (Bertolin & Leite 2008; McCowan 2004). Access is limited to privileged groups in both the public and private sectors, due to highly competitive examinations in the former, and fees in the latter.
However, there have been concerted efforts since 2002 to expand the federal university system. This expansion has included the encouragement of new forms of teaching and curriculum, moving away from the transmission mode within isolated disciplines, and the establishment of new models of university aiming for a more equitable entry system and stronger commitment to social justice. These highly distinctive and innovative institutions include: the Federal University of Amazonian Integration; the Federal University of Luso-African-Brazilian Integration; and the Federal University of the Southern Frontier.
Perhaps the best known of these new universities, however, is the Federal University of Latin American Integration (UNILA). This university, founded in 2010, is located at the triple border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, with a focus on regional cooperation that provides a different model from the free trade agreements promoted by the USA. It aims to have half of its students and staff from Brazil, and half from other countries in Latin America, as well as offering taught courses engaging with pan-Latin American concerns, and conducting research oriented towards regional development needs. There is also a commitment to expanding access to disadvantaged populations, particularly the local community descended from the construction workers of the Itaipu dam. In relation to the curriculum, there are also efforts to develop new forms of interdisciplinary study, engaging with local communities and drawing on their knowledge systems.
This paper presents findings of the initial stages of a research study on UNILA. The study has two main aims. First, it aims to explore the conceptions of the university underpinning UNILA, assessing the ways in which they may challenge or reinforce established paradigms. Second, it assesses the experience of founding the new university and the challenges and opportunities presented in the initial two years of existence.
Altbach, P., Reisberg, L. and Rumbley, L. (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. Paris: UNESCO. Bernasconi, A. (2007) Is there a Latin American Model of the University?, Comparative Education Review, 52 (1), : 27–52. Bertolin, J. and Leite, D. (2008) Quality evaluation of the Brazilian higher education system: Relevance, diversity, equity and effectiveness. Quality in Higher Education 14 (2), 121-133. Coleman, J. (1984) The idea of the developmental university. In Hetland, A. (ed.), Universities and National Development. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, pp. 85-105. INEP (2009) Censo da educação superior 2008. Brasília: INEP. McCowan, T. (2004) The Growth of Private Higher Education in Brazil: Implications for Equity and Quality. Journal of Education Policy, 19 (4), 453-472 Motter, P. and Gandin, L. A. (2010) Higher Education and a New Regionalism in Latin America: the UNILA Project. Paper Presented at the 54th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Chicago, IL, 6 March. Slaughter, S. and Leslie, L.L. (1997) Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.
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