Latin America and its major universities are at a turning point, one that could (and should) embrace a new era of international collaboration through means that contribute to the local communities by determining challenges and generating solutions.
Higher education leaders are responsible for taking on a leadership role as drivers of economic and social advancement in their regions and we are exponentially witnessing universities in Mexico and across Latin America take this commitment fervently.
As Francisco Marmolejo, the World Bank’s top tertiary education specialist mentioned that it is important during periods of tension and intolerance, universities take on a decisive and authoritative role on the societal challenges.
In Northwestern Mexico, particularly in Baja California, we have witnessed these solutions being realised through economic development, new opportunities for international partnerships and widened admittance to higher education.
Universities are progressively playing a greater role as hubs for (and drivers of) economic advancement. This is gradually becoming a reality across Latin America but is happening in the Mexican border region of Baja California, where CETYS University remains an important element of regional advancement.
From 2010 to 2016, Baja California’s gross domestic product increased by over 25%, to US$33.6 billion. As partners to local and multinational industry, universities such as CETYS deliver talent and intellectual capital that is fundamental for such continuous growth.
Fundamentally, this means establishing an agile curriculum that can meet the present and future economic demands, while also implementing a leadership role in technology development and transfer.
Considering the alumni from CETYS representing close to 40% of industry leaders in Baja California. And industry clusters in other areas of Mexico also expands this form of collaboration between industry, government and higher education, including Querétaro and El Bajío.
Universities will also be critical in resolving long-term challenges with actual implications for society and individuals. We have witnessed several United States-based institutions that have revamped their research funding framework to give precedence to initiatives targeted at resolving societal challenges.
In Baja California, the centres of excellence act similarly in that they gather industry, government and academic leaders to establish real-world solutions to regional challenges. This includes from fast-tracked speicalised graduate programmes designed in conjunction with industry to research efforts related to autonomous vehicles or innovative means to determine mental fatigue.
While the integration of problem-solving into university culture requires the engagement of external advisors and experts to render counsel that can direct university initiatives, assisting university education leaders foresee challenges while placing emphasis on research and programmatic initiatives to resolve them. This may include student-facing initiatives targeted at creating certain skill sets and it may be based on a more research provident research enterprise.
Such future-focused initiatives are particularly important due to the continuous political tensions in relation to the US-Mexico border. By focusing on opportunities for international collaboration, we can add to the sense of unity and partnership that has long been a ratification of higher education. We witness this through the increasing appropriation of connecting standards and quality accreditation. Over 40 foreign institutions have US institutional accreditation, 10 of which are in Latin America.
New partnerships can establish ‘win-win’ situations that assist to drive innovation and development. Through the ‘100,000 Strong in the Americas’ grant, the University of Texas at El Paso and CETYS University had students apply their engineering expertise to environmental challenges in Guadalupe Valley, a globally-recognised wine region in Baja California.
Fundamentally, higher education institutions are uniquely compatible for engagement with globally distinguished individuals in academe and in industry. But meeting the mission’s objective requires the integration of its focus into the planning attempts.
Finally, as a breeding source of regional development, universities will have to be aware that their presence is to empower people within their communities by developing a more objective route to higher education. Those that receive support from universities are also the gamechangers in the respective regions.
Source: University World News
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