Sharing impacts of higher education in Latin America.
DevPoles carried our an impact evaluation study of ALFA III for the European Commission. ALFA III was a European Union (EU) financed project promoting the development of Higher Education in Latin America as a means to stimulate more balanced and equitable social and economic development in the Region, thus contributing to social cohesion. A total of 51 projects were financed during 2007 and 2013, with a mean contribution per project of 1.5 M€, totaling 61,4 M€ in investment, and 418 Higher Education institutions involved from both sides of the Atlantic, 297 from Latin America and 121 from the EU. The evaluation team was able to interview 147 partners and 31 coordinators of the 418 total institutions that participated in the respective Projects.
ALFA III addressed some of the key problems of Higher Education in LA, which includes: (i) little convergence and integration of curricula; (ii) fragmentation and disintegration of spaces without achieving integration processes; (iii) institutional divergence, where large and traditional universities coexist with very small institutions; (iv) inequalities in attention of the different population groups, quality and relevance of the education offered, levels of training of their teachers, and the use of information and communication technologies. Projects financed by ALFA III were highly relevant for the following reasons: (i) they grantes socially and economically vulnerable groups access to Higher Education in LA; (ii) allows the participation of large and small universities, both public and private, in all the countries in the region, regardless of the levels of organization development; (iii) privileges LA-LA (South-South Cooperation) and LA-EU interaction; (iv) includes cross-cutting issues such as gender, environment and differently-abled people.
The ALFA III Program demonstrated high efficiency rates. Projects have been managed within the framework of established schedules, the use of funds reached 89% of disbursement ratios and attained 95% of the envisaged products. Participating universities now have better knowledge of the environment, new tools for updating curriculum, repositories, new and more accessible online courses, manuals and and more modern administrative structures.
Improving the access and permanence of the less favored strata of society in Institutions of Higher Education has been supported by means of the development of instruments to improve quality, access and relevance of curricula, the creation of virtual and accessible courses, direct work in disadvantaged areas, taking care of disadvantaged or vulnerable groups and the poorest countries in the region, and incorporating affirmative measures such as university policies and practices. The optimization of the link between the labor market and the business and public world, through diagnoses of the needs of the labor market, increasing the link between University and business through the creation of liaison offices and the establishment of curricula aligned to the needs of the market, leading to higher rates of employability for students. Work was done on improving curricular convergence at the regional level, through the development of credit recognition models, the establishment of standard curricula in various specialties, quality control, increased recognition of degrees, construction of a framework of qualifications and enhancement of academic mobility. Common practices were promoted at regional level for the evaluation of quality, accreditation and academic credits, by designing several models to improve the quality of higher education institutions in LA. Support was given to developing measures at the regional level to promote equality in access to higher education and social integration of disadvantaged groups through the creation of gender offices in universities, creation of liaison offices and the design of indicators for Be measuring the application of the third mission in the Universities.
The program was designed with ambitious goals. Important contributions of the Program in favor of the HEIs of LA are recognized with respect to: (i) increased cooperation links between the Universities of LA, which seemed to be weak before the presence of ALFA III. Small universities in the region, now have important links with major universities in Latin America; (ii) the introduction of concepts, policies and tools for the care of vulnerable groups, made visible and in many cases incorporated as an institutional policy; (iii) the reaction of branch offices to the environment, unusual before the presence of ALFA III; (iv) a more rigorous look at the needs of the market regarding human resource training, moving from a curriculum by objectives to one oriented more towards competency acquisition and the student; (v) greater internalization of Universities thanks to the network effort promoted by ALFA III and to the creation of internationalization offices within IESs; (vi) the dynamization of efforts to create a common area of Higher Education in the region, efforts that have reached the level of the sub-regions and which are starting to show certain results. To improve accessibility ALFA III Project contributed in two areas: (i) the first one studying the obstacles that disadvantaged populations, in unequal conditions, limited by personal or geographic physical aspects, face in order to access higher education and (ii) Tools that expand the possibilities of the populations in these conditions to access ES. Some examples are linking offices, the development of virtual education with accessibility, the promotion of scholarships in the university system for disadvantaged groups, as well as the promotion of affirmative measures for the female, indigenous or Afro-descendant population to increase their levels of presence and permanence.
Results under ALFA III outlived its financing phase and in many cases are used by project partners. The cross – cutting aspects of gender and environment have been considered and are kept within the institutional culture of the partners. The degrees of appropriation vary from partner to partner. The operation of the Networks established for the execution of the Projects has not had the expected effect, hurt on the one hand by legal aspects and on the other by the lack of availability of financial resources. It is to be noted that the performance of the networks built in LA is superior to the ones where the networks have been built in Europe.