Heads of state and government of the European Union countries and CELAC countries (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) convened in Santiago de Chile from 26 to 27 January under the theme ‘Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Investments of Social and Environmental Quality’.
One of the points highlighted by the Summit Declaration was the need to reinforce the Strategic Partnership between the two regions in research and higher education. Higher education was declared an official action point to be followed up under the EU-CELAC Action Plan 2013-2015.
In conjunction with partners of the ALFA PUENTES project, EUA and 23 university associations in Europe and Latin America submitted a statement to heads of state and government in the run-up to the summit. Based to a large extent on the outcomes of the recent bi-regional EU-LA University Association Conference held in São Paulo, Brazil (11-14 November, 2012), organised under the ALFA PUENTES project, the statement stresses the importance of higher education and research investment in meeting the priorities for sustainable development outlined under the EU-CELAC Action Plan. In particular, it highlights the following lessons learnt from ALFA PUENTES:
- Competitive research and innovation requires talent and well-trained individuals; governments should place a strong focus on the careers of young researchers (postdoc, doctoral candidates), and also Masters’ students through joint degrees or collaborative delivery of programmes, joint labs, and partnerships with industry and other social actors. In particular, collaborative provision of doctoral degrees should be supported and promoted.
- Higher education and research cooperation should exploit good practice from existing EU programmes: for example, cooperation and mobility grants through consortia comprised of universities from different countries of both regions have been extremely successful and should be scaled up.
- University associations are at the forefront of higher education and research policy development at national and regional levels. They should be consulted systematically in both regions on the points of the EU-CELAC agenda that relate to research and higher education.
- ALFA PUENTES, which is supported by the EU, has made great strides not just in facilitating cooperation between European and LA universities, but also among Latin American universities. LA governments should also look to invest in similar regional collaboration initiatives in the LA context.
The Summit Declaration stresses the “importance of triangular, south-south and other modalities and mechanisms of cooperation” and also recognises “the important contribution of higher education programmes for academic cooperation and international student, research and academic staff mobility between (the) regions”. This is a positive sign that both research and higher education are considered on the EU-CELAC agenda, and seemingly have gained more attention, compared to previous summits.
EUA, in the context of ALFA PUENTES, will continue to follow this agenda in cooperation with university associations in Latin America.
The project, ALFA PUENTES: Building Capacity of University Associations in Fostering Latin American Regional Integration, unites 23 national and regional university associations of Latin America and Europe. The project places a strong focus on higher education internationalisation and integration of Latin American higher education systems, and explores the specific role of university associations in this regard. It is co-funded by the European Union Alfa Programme. Over the past two years, the project has been developing mechanisms and frameworks for regional quality assurance collaboration, modernising degree structuring, and enhancing academic mobility.