The Alfa Puentes project, which is supported by the EU, made great steps not just by facilitating cooperation between European and Latin American universities, but also among Latin American universities. The project motivates governments in Latin America to investigate the possibilities to invest in collaboration initiatives between Latin American countries.
Education and social cohesion
Alfa Puentes builds upon existing sub-regional collaborations in Latin America, such as the Andean Community and Mercosur, but stimulates mutual learning activities between Latin American and European university associations as well. Quality assurance reform, the broader recognition of degrees and increasing academic mobility are its most important themes.
“The project will look to build wider regional convergence from the bottom up, utilizing the sub-regional experience as a building block. It will simultaneously aim to generate stronger working relationships between European and Latin America associations.” A region wide survey of university leadership and faculty in Latin America will provide comparable data on how universities are currently reforming teaching, research, internationalization, quality assurance, and management.
Universities and other education institutes are key drivers of knowledge societies. Next to creating and sharing knowledge to enable young people to find high-skilled jobs, they support social and cultural development. The Alfa Puentes project focusses on these social and cultural aspects as well. “Universities play a critical role from a wider socio-cultural perspective, promoting social cohesion and transmitting values that improve and enhance the quality of social interaction between individuals and groups”.
Alliance for Sustainable Development Summit
In the spirit of the Alfa Puentes project, leaders from EU-countries and Latin American and Caribbean states gathered in Santiago de Chile under the theme ‘Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Investments of Social and Environmental Quality’. At this summit the need to reinforce the Strategic Partnership between the two regions in research and higher education was underlined.
During the summit, the importance of higher education and research investment in meeting the priorities for sustainable development was caught in the following three lessons from the Alfa Puentes project:
- 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 programs, 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 programs: 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.
The Summit Declaration stresses the importance of triangular, south-south cooperation and recognizes “the important contribution of higher education programs for academic cooperation and international student, research and academic staff mobility between the regions”.