THE DEBATE OVER PUBLIC HIGHER LEARNING

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On November 2nd, 2015, the first session of the on-going seminar, “Global Perspectives on State Higher Education” took place; Chancellor Ennio Vivaldi organized the event, along with the Vice Rectory of Extension and Communications, the International Relations Committee, and the Consortium of State Universities of Chile (Cuech). This first session included the then chancellor of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Professor Jose Narro, who spoke about the relevance of state universities in Latin American societies. William Hammonds also spoke, an expert in public policy for Universities UK; Brian Pusser, academic at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia; Martin Carnoy, PHD in Economics at the University of Chicago, and Henry Brady, Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, at the University of California, Berkeley.

Throughout these sessions, and the ones yet to come, the Universidad de Chile, in alliance with Cuech, has tried to meet the challenge established at the outset of this project: to bring together a group of chancellors and foreign specialists in order to learn and debate the transformational processes that are taking place in the most relevant state owned university systems of the world, to explore the future possibilities for higher education in Chile in the contemporary context, and to contribute to the ongoing exchange of ideas between universities.

This initiative hopes to contribute to questions concerning the transformations and the restructuring of the state owned higher learning institutions in a globalized context, creating and strengthening collaborative university networks in order to share the experiences and challenges of public universities in the world and in Latin America in particular.

These were the issues taken up by Professor Brian Pusser of the University of Virginia, who gave an account of the global transformations that are taking place in higher learning, and how public universities can operate in this context. In the subsequent dossier that is included in the following pages of Palabra Pública, his contribution is summarized. He addresses how the privatization of public universities has become a central characteristic of the neoliberal policies applied throughout the world.

Also ahead, the responses to Pusser’s address are included, with Universidad de Chile professor Daniel Hojman, and the director of the Centro de Estudios Públicos, Harald Beyer. Hojman, PHD in Economics from Harvard University, summarizes the central tenets put forward by Pusser: the political conceptualization of higher education, the public role of universities, and finally, their contribution to the development of their respective countries. The former Minister of Education in the government of Sebastián Piñera, meanwhile, highlights the evolution of the higher education system in Chile, noting its mixed character and the need to avoid an unnecessary polarization with respect to the public-private divide.

 

Translated by Anthony Rauld, Department of Linguistics of the Universidad de Chile

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