Brazil’s new Latin American and global integration universities launched

As 2009 drew to a close, Brazil’s Senate granted official authorization for the establishment of a new, very different kind of university in Brazil – the Federal University for Latin America Integration, otherwise known as UNILA.

Unanimously passed on December 16th 2009, the Bill now enables UNILA to formally announce itself as a university, instead of a fledging project under the banner of the Institute for Advanced Studies, with oversight by the University of Parana, in the Brazilian state of Parana.

UNILA is one of three regional integration universities launched by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2006 to advance Brazil’s interests within the region and globally. The other two university projects are UNILAB – the Afro-Brazilian University of Integration, and UNIAM – the University of Amazonian Integration.

These Brazilian initiatives were the latest addition to a rapidly changing higher education landscape around the globe, and one that is set to continue in 2010 (as implied in a recent NY Times report about the implications of the collapse of Dubai’s overheated economy for branch campuses such as Michigan State University and Rochester Institute of Technology).

Dubai’s spectacular meltdown in December was matched by a stunning $61m launch party for Saudi Arabia’s ‘House of Wisdom’ – the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST which Kimberly Coulter covered for GlobalHigherEd.

As Kris Olds wrote in his introduction to Coulter’s entry:

KAUST is a unique experiment in how to organize an institution to facilitate innovation in scientific knowledge production, a secure and efficient compound (hence Saudi Aramco’s involvement), a defacto sovereign wealth fund, a demonstration effect for new approaches to higher education in Saudi Arabia, and many other things (depending on standpoint).

So what do these initiatives have in common? Money aside (KAUST has an endowment of around US$11bn), but like KAUST, Brazil’s three new universities reflect a shared ambition: to use international higher education networks to advance cultural, political and economic projects.

However while KAUST is aimed at developing a world class national university in Saudi Arabia via the recruitment of global talent (academics and students), state of the art buildings and cutting edge development projects, UNILA, UNILAB and UNIAM are aimed at creating a ‘supranational’, ‘global’ and ‘regional’  university respectively, drawing upon staff and students from within the wider region, or from across south-south networks (UNILAB) – though each,  as I will show below, have distinctive visions and territorial reaches with UNILAB the most global.

In August of 2009, I had the privilege of attending the official launch of UNILA.  Close to the fabulous Iguacu Falls,  in Foz, Parana, UNILA is being developed on a 43 hectare site granted by Itaipu Binacional, the bi-national energy company running the huge hydro-electric dam providing energy to Paraguay and the southern cone of Brazil.

The objectives of UNILA are to pursue inter-regional trans-disciplinary research and teaching in areas of joint interest of the MERCOSUL member countries (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay) focusing, for example, upon use of natural resources, trans-border biodiversity, social sciences and linguistic research, international relations as well as relevant disciplines for strategic development.

Unlike KAUST, however, whose model is US-oriented (in becoming the MIT of the East, the ‘Stanford by the Seashore’), UNILA’s mission and approach to knowledge is shaped by a distinctive Latin American commitment. Each course has a Patron and a Founder.

The first Patrons have been chosen for being Latin American names who have left relevant academic-scientific contributions associated to a field of knowledge , while course founders have been appointed for the high academic prestige in their respective fields of knowledge as well as renowned international competence in their specialities.

10 Professorial Chairs have been appointed to UNILA. Each Chair has a mandate to develop courses in ways that are inspired by, and advance, the intellectual legacy of the Patron. For instance, in the area of science, technology and innovation,  founding Chair, Hebe Vessuri, will draw inspiration from the patron Amilcar Herrerra (1920-1995) – an Argentinean geologist who valued inter-disciplinary knowledge and who have argued that the solution to problems lay not with science as progress, but in the interface with policy and politics.

These patrons are clearly not the organic intellectuals of the ruling classes. Many of these patrons, such as the Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao (1823-65), and Paraguay’s Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005), have spent years in exile.

The target student population for UNILA is 10,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and post-graduate programmes leading to MA and PhD degrees. Entrants will be required to sit a university entry examination that will be offered in two versions: one with a Portuguese language requirement for Brazilian citizens and a Spanish Language for the foreign candidates of eligible member countries. Lectures will be offered in both Portuguese and Spanish, as it is expected that half of the teaching staff will be from the regional member countries.

By way of contrast with UNILA, UNILAB is the most global in ambition. This unilateral Portuguese-speaking Afro-Brazilian University of Integration will have  campuses in various  Portuguese speaking countries (Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sâo Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor). Expected to open for enrolment in the beginning of   2010, UNILAB is hailed as a political-pedagogic innovation project (see here for information on UNILAB developments).

The principal aim of UNILAB is to encourage and strengthen co-operation, partnerships, and cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between Brazil an member states of   the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) listed above. UNILAB will also focus on collaboration with the African countries of the CPLP,  aiming to contribute to these nations’ socio-economic development, including reducing ‘brain drain’ problems currently experienced by African countries.

UNILAB is intended to become an integrated multi-campus institution with campuses in all the   African member countries of the CPLP. Each of these campuses will also be integrated within the regions where they are located. Its main campus will be established in the city of Redenção in Brazil’s North-Eastern state of Ceará, approximately 60 kilometres from the city of Fortaleza. Redenção has been selected to host the main campus because it was the first municipality that had abolished slavery in Brazil, and because the region currently does not yet host a university. The main campus is also expected to function as an instrument for the strategic social-economic development of the North-East of Brazil.

In a report carried by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education on these initiatives, Brazil’s Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, commented:

We will not offer traditional programmes, but instead we will construct a common identity between the countries, that makes it possible to contribute to the social-economic development of each of the countries involved.

The third, more regional, initiative, Universidade Federal da Integração Amazônica, or UNIAM, will be established as a public multi-campus university, with a main campus in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará.

The main aim of UNIAM will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

UNIAM’s  main campus will be established in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará. The aim of the new institution will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

While it is unclear at the moment when the new university will open for enrolment, by 2013 UNIAM is expected to offer 41 programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral levels.  The Brazilian government will reportedly cover the US$107 million budget that will be needed to pay for the establishment and personnel costs of the new university until 2012.

Described by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as particular ‘political-pedagogic innovation projects’, these three new universities are intended to enhance national, regional and global integration, and demonstrate to the world that it may be possible to unite different countries through education.

These are fascinating initiatives likely to liven up the global higher education landscape in 2010. They reflect not only emerging regionalisms, but potential shifts in the sites and stakes of global and regional knowledge production and power.

Susan Robertson

Deliberating about bridging the gap between industry and universities in a global knowledge economy

Deliberations about the meanings and uses of higher education continue apace.  The global economic crisis has exasperated the significance of this centuries old debate, in part because of serious fiscal pressures, but also because of the perception that higher education is now becoming the ‘railroad of the 21st century’.

Why is the ‘railroad of the 21st century’ perception emerging, rightly or wrongly? In part because a structural transformation to a ‘knowledge-based economy’ is underway; one dependent upon related shifts, including the emergence of a ‘knowledge society’. And which institutions are critically important to producing a knowledge society? Well, many, but a key one is, undoubtedly, the university.

Now the ‘uses of higher education’ debate is taking place on many levels, only one of which (university-industry linkages) we’ll flag today.  Other debates centre on views that higher education should be considered as an ‘export-earning industry’ (and issue we have discussed in GlobalHigherEd), or the logic of opening new types of higher education institutions (e.g., KAUST and Amsterdam University College, both of which celebrated their openings last week) with unique missions. [Note: we’ll be posting coverage of both openings over the next several days]

Bridging the perceived gap between universities and industry in the UK/Europe

Given the structural pressure to create a knowledge society/economy, and the patently obvious decline of government income per student in most countries, we are witnessing drives in many countries to create and/or deepen university-industry linkages. The logic is to generate (a) more innovation within the economic development process, (b) new streams of revenue for fiscally challenged universities via the commercialization of select forms of knowledge production, and (c) more entrepreneurial students who will become the tangible drivers of the knowledge economy.  I’m being simplistic here, of course, but this is the broad tenor of the argument.

This drive is focused on, albeit unevenly across space and time, bridging the perceived gap between universities (as represented by faculty, researchers, and students) and industry. Bridging activities include patenting, licensing, spinning-off firms, consultancy, contract research, on-demand training, new forms of formal and informal advisory relationships, and so on.

Now the drive to enhance transformation of the mission of universities comes from many quarters. In some countries and city-regions it comes from within the universities themselves, while in other contexts industry is the key driver. In yet other contexts the push comes from national governments, as well as regional (e.g., the European Commission) or international organizations (e.g. the World Bank).  In all cases an ‘innovation’ agenda underlies the push.

An example of a push from ‘industry’ was clearly evident last week in the UK. The industry push came via the UK-based Confederation of British Industry (CBI), under the leadership of Richard Lambert. Lambert is the CBI’s director-general, author of the Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration (2003), and co-author (with Nick Butler) of The Future of European Universities: Renaissance or Decay? (2006). Lambert has also acted as the University of Warwick’s Chancellor since 2008.

CBIcoverThe CBI’s Higher Education unit stirred up the debate via the release of a major report titled Stronger Together – Businesses and Universities in Turbulent Times. Let me quote, extensively, from the press release, including a lead-off quote from Sam Laidlaw, Chairman of the CBI Higher Education taskforce and CEO of Centrica:

“Effective collaboration between the higher education sector, business and government will be critical to the UK’s economic recovery and sustainable international competitiveness. Business must also make a sustained effort in supporting higher education. To this end, I am pleased that as a Task Force we have made a strong commitment to provide the support needed to help students build the employability and technical skills that are so important.”

The report proposes that more businesses should work with universities to:

  • Sponsor students studying subjects relevant to business, such as science and technology.
  • Provide financial support to new graduates, through bonuses when they sign on with the firm.
  • Offer more opportunities for internships, placements, work experience or projects.
  • View working with universities as part of core innovation activity.

Richard Lambert, CBI director-general, said:

“Maintaining a world-class higher education system is vital to the UK’s future competitiveness, and we should sustain current levels of investment in teaching and research, which are low by international standards. Strong leadership is also needed to minimise the risk of long-term decline.

“Business should engage more with universities, both financially and intellectually. More firms should help design and pay for courses for the benefit of the current and future workforce, and more firms should offer students practical work experience.

“In return for this extra investment of time and money, business will want to see more emphasis given to certain subjects, such as science, technology, engineering and maths. Languages are also seen to be important, and the taskforce argues that more should be done to prepare students for the world of work, and teach them the generic skills that will help smooth their pathway into employment.”

Needless to say, this report has been both praised and criticized over the last week. Some are concerned that the UK government is turning higher education into a training unit for private firms, while others are praising the call for greater focus (the ‘do less better’ mantra) and the report’s recognition that there is a disconnect between society’s ambitions for its universities and the funding base that currently exists.

The report’s findings are likely to feed into deliberations about the new proposals (launched last week as well) regarding the UK’s proposed Research Excellence Framework (REF), which will replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

Two contrarian views in the US

The timing of this push by industry, one largely supported by the UK’s Labour Government, coincided with two broadly critical arguments regarding such a development agenda.

Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, published a widely read 9 September article in the New York Times about the problems with such a development agenda. In her article (‘The University’s Crisis of Purpose’), Gilpin Faust argues that:

Higher education is not about results in the next quarter but about discoveries that may take — and last — decades or even centuries. Neither the abiding questions of humanistic inquiry nor the winding path of scientific research that leads ultimately to innovation and discovery can be neatly fitted within a predictable budget and timetable….Universities are meant to be producers not just of knowledge but also of (often inconvenient) doubt. They are creative and unruly places, homes to a polyphony of voices. But at this moment in our history, universities might well ask if they have in fact done enough to raise the deep and unsettling questions necessary to any society.

As the world indulged in a bubble of false prosperity and excessive materialism, should universities — in their research, teaching and writing — have made greater efforts to expose the patterns of risk and denial? Should universities have presented a firmer counterweight to economic irresponsibility? Have universities become too captive to the immediate and worldly purposes they serve? Has the market model become the fundamental and defining identity of higher education?

Since the 1970s there has been a steep decline in the percentage of students majoring in the liberal arts and sciences, and an accompanying increase in preprofessional undergraduate degrees. Business is now by far the most popular undergraduate major, with twice as many bachelor’s degrees awarded in this area than in any other field of study. In the era of economic constraint before us, the pressure toward vocational pursuits is likely only to intensify.

As a nation, we need to ask more than this from our universities. Higher learning can offer individuals and societies a depth and breadth of vision absent from the inevitably myopic present. Human beings need meaning, understanding and perspective as well as jobs. The question should not be whether we can afford to believe in such purposes in these times, but whether we can afford not to.

Drew Gilpin Faust’s argument complements a full-length piece (‘Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school’) by Mark Slouka in the September 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Slouka’s article focuses on education (versus just higher education) but it reflects the tenor of debates in higher ed in the US. His article, which is worth contrasting with the CBI report noted above, reflects a concern that the linkage agenda needs to be halted for it has already gone far too far, especially with respect to the valorization of select disciplines, specific forms of knowledge, and particular ways of knowing. Thus, the sense of urgency that the CBI constructs (in the UK) is turned upside down, and effectively viewed as an attempt to finish off what has been a long running and lost (or won, from an industry perspective) battle. Slouka’s sense is that:

[I]t’s about the increasing dominance—scratch that, the unqualified triumph—of a certain way of seeing, of reckoning value. It’s about the victory of whatever can be quantified over everything that can’t. It’s about the quiet retooling of American education into an adjunct of business, an instrument of production.

Slouka’s argument is primarily situated in the American context, but resonates with debates going on in many other countries, both on university-industry linkages, but also on the challenges the Humanities are currently facing.

What are universities for?The contributions of both Slouka and Gilpin Faust remind me of elements of the argument of Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas in What are universities for? (League of European Research Universities, September 2008):

It is our contention that slipshod thinking about the roles that universities can play in society is leading to demands that they cannot satisfy, whilst obscuring their most important contributions to society, and, in the process, undermining their potential. It is wrong, in our view, to expect … that universities will be dynamos of growth and huge generators of wealth, leading to economic prosperity and enhanced quality of life on anything like the scale that is implicit in such language. In a European context, where governments are principal funders of universities, the assumption is that they are a lever which, when pulled, will gush forth the tangible effects of economic prosperity into which public money has been transformed. In reality, universities can only be one part of the process of producing a successful knowledge economy. The oft-quoted example of Silicon Valley and Stanford University is far more subtle and complex than a simple reading allows. It is a compound of capitalist enterprise, technical and legal services, skilled labour, a broad range of social provision in the public domain, local and state government policy, the appetites of an historically entrepreneurial culture, and maybe even climate.

Mission creep is to be expected for universities are embedded in a services-dominated knowledge economy (in the Global North, at least): it would be foolish not to expect universities to be asked to play a stronger role in the development and innovation process. But such mission creep needs to be interrogated, debated about, contextualized (as Boulton and Lucas hint at), and viewed in other than simple B&W ways. Broader factors, too, like the largesse Harvard University sits on needs to be flagged, for this multi-billion dollar endowment arguably provides Gilpin Faust with at least some of her desired latitude.

I’ll close off by noting that the UK’s CBI is being remarkably open about their objectives.  This is to be welcomed and it contrasts sharply with what happens in many other countries. The CBI (via the CBI Higher Education taskforce) seems ready for a debate, and they are systematic and strategic about their agenda. Yet the critics of the CBI agenda seem to primarily gripe from the edges, at least as perceived from my distanced perspective. We await a more formal and systematic critique to emerge in the UK; one that is equally formed, as coherently put together, and as openly circulated, as is the CBI viewpoint. The unruly process of innovation depends upon it.

Kris Olds

The US – India ‘knowledge’ relationship: the sleeping giant stirs!

gore Editor’s Note: This entry has been kindly prepared by Tim Gore, now Director of The Centre for Indian Business, University of Greenwich, London, UK.  Prior to this, Tim was Director of Education at the British Council in India, where he was responsible for growing the knowledge partnership between India and the UK. Tim also led the establishment of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) that is profiled in an earlier blog entry.

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How will President Obama’s ambitious plans for a new diplomacy translate into practical international relations and how will this impact on the education sector? An early example of this may prove to be relations with India and some clues may be in the newly released Asia Society Task Force report: Delivering on the Promise: Advancing US Relations with India.  goreasiasociety2goreasiasociety1

The high level rhetoric for the US-India relationship may not have changed that much after all President Bush declared ‘the world needs India’ on his 2006 visit to the Indian School of Business (ISB) – Hyderabad –  a school touted by the new report as an example of what can be done with good US-India cooperation. The School works in partnership with Wharton and Kellogg and prompted a Bush accolade ‘You’ve got a great thing going’!

However, the tone of the report is a substantial departure from the Bush years. Democratic colors are now firmly fixed to the mast and references to ‘reciprocity’ and ‘understanding India’ abound, while the ‘world needs India’ has changed to ‘the USA needs India as an ally in its foreign policy issues’.

The education agenda is a little buried in this report. It has been classified under the second track ‘Joint Public-Private Partnerships for Complex Global Challenges’. Is this code meaning that there will be little Government funding available (seed-corn funding is mentioned briefly)? After all, educational relations between the two countries have flourished over the years, despite a relative absence of visible policy and public sector involvement. There are over 80,000 Indians studying in higher education in the US every year and the US dominates the ‘market’ for doctoral studies. Also, many commentators (see, for example,  Anna-Lee Saxenian’s book The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy) have pointed out the seminal role of talented Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere and research links with the US are strong and growing.

There are also quite a number of US tertiary collaborations with India (although surprisingly bearing in mind the respective sizes of their tertiary sectors, not more than the number of UK collaborations). However, the use of ISB as a beacon of attainment highlights the key issue with US-India educational relations and the nuances of policy that the US will need to get right.

goreisb ISB is an exceptional institution, undoubtedly in the top tier of such institutions globally, in terms of how hard they work their students if nothing else! However ISB, with its powerful private sector Governing Board and influential international links (US presidents don’t drop into every management college with a foreign badge on the gate), is not accredited in India by the relevant regulatory body the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

Similarly, the campus of the US Western International University run by the influential Modi family has no official status in India. If pressed, officials will say that it is ‘not legal’.

Australia, New Zealand and UK have a multilateral forum with India on quality assurance, regulation of cross border education and other issues of mutual interest, The US approach thus far has been to lobby for liberalisation of the sector. Alienating the Human Resources Ministry may not matter in trade relations, but it will matter in education and knowledge partnerships.

The report shows little understanding of the education sector. It claims that direct investment in education is not allowed in India. This is not really the case as a recent MoU to establish a campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Andhra Pradesh (near the ISB) demonstrates. Regulation of foreign provision in India is unclear with the relevant legislation frozen in parliament but accreditation can be achieved. The UK’s Huddersfield University has both invested in, and achieved, official recognition of its joint venture in ‘Hospitality Management’ with the Taj Hotel Group in India.

Similarly, the report claims that the higher education sector is overwhelmingly public which is again not the case. Over 50% of higher education provision in India is private and the vast majority of audiences the US would like to address at secondary level will attend private schools which dominate the urban areas. This brings me to a second point.

The ISB example, while interesting, also misses the point raised, as the main way the US can build an educational relationship with India is claimed to be partnership in meeting the training requirements for India’s large population. ISB and similar Tier 1 institutions will never address this demand with their tiny elite intakes. More relevant are the 1800 engineering colleges with Tier 2 aspirations that are currently achieving less than 30% employability according to the IT industry body Nasscom. Here the community colleges and Tier 2 US institutions could play a bigger role (briefly touched upon in the report). And here, also, the private sector becomes very relevant with the enormous number of Tier 2 private institutions springing up all over India.

Finally, the potential of the partnership is less than fully explored here. The US already has a substantial knowledge partnership with India which transcends the main objective in the report; of helping India to produce its next generation workforce. The complex research and innovation links with US through entrepreneurs and highly qualified graduate technicians and scientists are of immense value to both countries but largely ignored in this report. The overall impression is of a hastily prepared report to encourage the new administration to focus on India.

Many of us have wondered what would happen if the sleeping giant awakes and the US take a more pro-active and coherent approach to its knowledge and education partnership with India.This report may be the alarm clock going off..!!

Tim Gore