Envisioning the Future of Higher Education in Latin America: Towards Integration and Internationalization


Envisioning the Future of Higher Education in Latin America: Towards Integration and Internationalization

This spring, higher education in Latin America is taking hopeful steps into the future. The years of pandemic were arduous for higher education institutions and students alike, with many institutions closing their doors for long periods and many students dropping out of their studies. While the long-term impacts of the pandemic years are yet to be discovered, Latin American higher education institutions are creating momentum to build a brighter future.

In 2018, only a year before the onset of the pandemic, Latin American countries gathered in the regional conference of higher education (CRES) in Argentina, to discuss and set goals for higher education across the region. CRES is a recurring congress organized by UNESCO-IESALC, the International Institute of Higher Education in Latin America and Caribbean, which specializes in the improvement of higher education in the member states. The conference had seven overarching themes: higher education as part of the education system in Latin America and the Caribbean; cultural diversity and interculturality; internationalization and regional integration; social challenges and social duty; research and innovation as the engine of development; higher education and sustainable development; and towards a new manifesto of the Latin American higher education.  

CRES 2018 resulted in the signing of an action plan for the following ten years (2018-2028) and ratifying principles to guide the development of higher education agendas. In the declaration, higher education was recognized as a social, strategic and public asset, which purpose is to strengthen democracy and combat dictatorship, violence and inequality. Higher education institutions in Latin America have strong social missions, and they commit to empowering diversity and inclusion, particularly of those groups often subjected to discrimination. Considering the critical social purpose higher education has in the region, the declaration also encourages refraining from international collaborations, which define education as a commercial good for trade.

Five turbulent years later, Latin American countries are gathering again to CRES+5. The outbreak of Covid-19 presented unforeseen challenges, which this follow-up conference is set to assess midway through the ten-year action plan. This time the conference will be organized in Brasília on March 13-15 and the range of thematic axis has been widened. The new themes include decent work and living conditions of higher education stakeholders; the impact of Covid-19 in higher education; inclusion, diversity and the role of women in higher education; financing and governance in higher education; autonomy of higher education institutions; and futures of higher education in Latin America and Caribbean. The social dimension of higher education institutions continues to be central but the follow-up conference also signals an increased commitment to regional integration in higher education. 

Regional integration has been an important project within Latin American higher education in recent years. The UNESCO New Regional Convention for the Recognition of Studies, Degrees and Diplomas in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean is an instrument through which Latin American countries promote regional mobility by unifying the processes of diploma recognition. The convention entered into effect in October 2022, and to date, Uruguay, Peru, Grenada and Cuba have completed the ratification process. 

Regional integration will also be discussed in the International Fair of Higher Education in Argentina, FIESA 2024, which will delve into regional integration as a strategic alliance for internationalization. The five overarching themes of the conference are democratic values and human rights; cooperation at university as a tool for regional integration; integral internationalization and the Sustainable Development Goals; universal and inclusive accessibility; and innovation and technology transfer. The conference will be organized on March 19-22 in the city of Puerto Iguazú, known for the spectacular Iguazú falls.

In addition, the largest and most significant internationalization conference in Latin America, FAUBAI 2024, is orienting itself towards a hopeful future. Titled Inviting for a New Journey, the conference aims to discuss higher education in the post-pandemic era and reimagine the ways in which international collaboration can contribute to a better future. FAUBAI conference will be organized in São Paulo, Brazil on April 20-24, 2024.

The registrations for CRES+5, FIESA 2024 and FAUBAI 2024 are still open. If envisioning future in Latin American higher education is intriguing to you, don’t miss out on these excellent opportunities! 
CRES+5 registration deadline: February 13th 
FAUBAI 2024 deadline for submissions: February 9th 
FIESA 2024 registration: 

Writer: Emilia Heilakka, EDUFI’s TFK-trainee, Consulate of Finland in Sao Paulo
Photo: Iguazú falls, Puerto Iguazu, Misiones, Argentina

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(N/A) “Action plan 2018-2028: III Regional Conference of Higher Education." UNESCO. 
Moloney & Teixera (22.04.2022). “Young Latin Americans see career dreams crushed in COVID’s wake” Thomson Reuters Foundation, UNESCO. 
(N/A) (n.d) “General Report: CRES 2018 III Regional Conference of Higher Education” UNESCO-IESALC. 
(N/A) (28.03.2023) “CRES+5 to be held in March 2024 in Brasília.” UNESCO. 

(N/A) (26.10.2022). “New Regional Convention for the Recognition of Studies, Degrees and Diplomas in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean enters into force.” UNESCO