UC, a primer

A glimpse of UC's Villarrica Regional Campus. Located 750 km south of Santiago, in “La Araucanía” Region, the Villarrica Regional Campus focuses on the training of general Elementary Education

Margo and I are putting together a brief overview of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile to share with our PFP Chile colleagues during our final pre-trip meeting. What follows is a quick summary of the highlights we plan to cover.

  • Mission Statement
    • To achieve excellence in the creation and transfer of knowledge and training of people, inspired by a Catholic understanding and always at the service of the Church and Society.
  • History in Brief
    • Founded on 21 June 1888 by the initiative of the Archbishop of Santiago, Monsignor Mariano Casanova
    • Initial Goal:
      • create an institution that integrated academic excellence and inspired training in Christina doctrine
    • Declared a pontifical university by Pope Pius XI in 1930
    • Granted full academic autonomy by the Chilean government in 1931
    • First two schools were for Law and the Physical Sciences and Math
    • First graduates were civil engineers, architects, and law graduates
  • Demographics
    • Enrollment (2010)
      • 22,122
        • ~ 2400 masters students
        • ~ 800 doctorate students
        • ~ 800 post-doctorate students
      • ~ 1,500 full-time faculty
  • Faculties (roughly equivalent to “colleges” in the US university system)
    • College UC
      • Bachelor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
      • Bachelor of Social Science
      • Bachelor of Arts and Humanities
    • Faculty of Agronomy & Forest Engineering
    • Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Urban Studies
    • Faculty of Arts Faculty of Biological Sciences
    • Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences
    • Faculty of Social Sciences
    • Faculty of Communications
    • Arts Faculty
    • Faculty of Law
    • Faculty of Language and Literature
    • Faculty of Education
    • Faculty of Engineering
    • Faculty of Philosophy
    • Faculty of Physics
    • Faculty of History, Geography, and Political Science
    • Faculty of Mathematics
    • Faculty of Chemistry
    • Faculty of Theology
  • Interesting Facts
    • 1 of 6 Catholic Universities in Chile
    • 1 of 2 Pontifical Universities in Chile
      • Catholic University established by and directly under the authority of the Holy See
      • Licensed to grant academic degrees in sacred faculties, the most important of which are:
        • Sacred Theology
        • Canon Law
        • Sacred Scripture and Philosophy
      • Pontifical universities follow a European system of degrees in the sacred faculties, granting the baccalaureate, the licentiate, and the doctorate
    • 4 Campuses in Santiago
      • “The four Santiago campuses have been selected, adapted, and designed to meet the needs of the fields of study offered on each campus within a rapidly developing urban setting.”
  • Villarrica Campus
    • “The Villarrica Regional Campus is located 750 km south of Santiago, in “La Araucanía” Region, where the density of the Mapuche population living in Chilean rural areas is the highest.”
    • “The main activity of this campus is the training of general Elementary Education teachers who attain a solid humanist emphasis, commit to Christian values, and have the competencies to conduct themselves in a globalized, culturally heterogeneous world that is marked by the use of new technologies.”
  • More Fun Factoids
    • Virtual campus which enables students to contact scholars from other parts of the world
    • 2009 – ranked best Chilean university and the second best in South America
    • Law school is currently ranked 1st in Latin America
    • Alma mater of Sebastían Piñera (current Chilean president)
    • Offers several double degrees at the graduate level with universities in other countries



CHE Reports from Santiago

Santiago Student Protestors Photo

image courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education (click image to be redirected)

No, not Guevara (although I imagine he’d support the movement), but rather The Chronicle of Higher Education. An article in today’s CHE examines the intricacies of the prolonged conflict over high tuition costs that lead to heavy personal debt (sound at all familiar to any current happenings in the US?). The article is fascinating for a variety of reasons. Not least of all is its framing of the concerns in contemporary Chilean higher education (which in many ways seem to be a microcosm of larger, global higher education topics). The article also builds nicely upon (or is, at the very least, tangential to) much of what Jordan has been writing about on his blog.

It doesn’t really serve for me to recap the article in its entirety (in fact, I suggest we all read the article before meeting on Thursday morning; it’s relatively short, very informative, and incredibly pertinent — great for reading during a mid-afternoon coffee break), but I do want to draw your attention to a few key areas. CHE reporter Andrew Downie focuses a lot of effort (understandably so) on explaining the origin of the ongoing protests. Attempting to explain the impetus behind the protests, Downie states,

The question of why such protests have erupted in Chile, the country that is by many measures the most advanced in South America and the one that spends most on education, might seem perplexing to outside observers. The answer, say experts, is in the question: The unrest is precisely because of the country’s leap forward.

Despite the money spent on education, many Chileans are criticizing the lack of reform in higher education. Indeed, these apparent leaps have been more closely resembled unimpassioned hops. Describing what he calls a “Failed ‘Revolution,’” Downie explains,

The seeds of protest were sown in December, when the education minister said the government would begin a “revolution” in higher education. Previous governments had avoided higher-education reform, preferring to concentrate on elementary and secondary education, and the announcement was a welcome surprise to many.

But when the government finally revealed only timid reforms, in May, there was widespread disappointment, says José Joaquin Brunner, who is one of Chile’s most respected professors and education researchers.

While there are many variables at play in this social movement, the reporting about and from Chile emphasizes the widespread public support behind the protests.

Many shops, banks, and stores are boarded up for security, but the students retain widespread support from ordinary Chileans, with the polls consistently showing more than 70 percent backing their cause.

No matter how unreliable public polling may be, this is a significant point to keep in mind while reviewing the remainder of the article (and generally contemplating the movement). With so much popular support, one might assume the protests would lead to a swift sea change in Chilean higher education; remedying many of the earlier, yet still inchoate, reforms. Well, yes and no. The article concludes on a positive (albeit cautious) note:

If nothing else, the conflict has made reform now seem unavoidable. But a resolution could still be months away, and there is widespread concern that students will lose this academic year entirely. That would put hundreds of thousands of degrees into question and perhaps even threaten the survival of some universities, particularly the less wealthy ones, in the provinces. Neither the students nor the government is likely to end up satisfied, but most people believe the overall outcome will be positive.

This fuzzy optimism seems particularly important for each of us (as socially and intellectually engaged travelers  with particular observational focus on Chilean higher education) to consider. Although it is difficult to accurately forecast the path of the protests or the route to reform, these topics will undoubtedly be on the public’s mind when we visit Chile in January. It serves well for each of us to be as knowledgeable as possible, while still remaining intellectually open (i.e. not to rush to judgement based upon preconceived notions resulting from foreign reporting, media bias, presumptions regarding the nature of social protest, lack of cultural context, etc.). Just one of the many topics to keep on the critically conscious radar before, during, and after our immersive whirlwind tour of Chilean higher education.

Still interested (I hope so)? Here’s a brief archival selection of CHE coverage of related issues in South American higher education: