By Danielle Macfarlane, Senior Liaison and Recruitment Officer (Latin America)
A watchful eye has been kept on Argentina in recent years. One of the ten richest countries in the world at the turn of the 20th Century, time and time again Argentina has been viewed as a rising economic star, but extensive periods of economic and political instability has meant that it has failed to live up to its full potential.
Despite its economic volatility, Argentina is considered a middle-income economy and is home to an estimated 45 million people, the fourth largest country in the Spanish/Portuguese-speaking region, behind Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.
In the past 15- 20 years, and under the auspices of the previous government, Argentine universities have received significant public investment, new universities have been created and the student population has doubled. There are currently 111 universities in the country – 57 of which are public institutions. Of these six institutions are ranked among the top 50 in the region by QS Rankings 2018.
Remarkably, undergraduate study at public universities is entirely free to attend and are open to everyone, including overseas students. As such, institutions attract many students from Peru, Venezuela and other countries across Latin America.
In actual numbers, the number of Argentine students enrolled in post-secondary education increased by 34% between 2007 and 2015, from 2.2 million to 2.97 million. However contrary to such positive uptake, Argentina’s education system produces far fewer graduates as a percentage of the population than the systems in neighbouring Brazil or Chile. This is because Argentina has one of the highest dropout rates in the world, which could, in part, be attributed to students not having the right academic level to study, as there is no entrance exam or selection process upon entering due to no nationwide secondary school leaving exam.
In recent years, the Government introduced a scholarship initiative which has enabled a small group of academically excellent students to be 100% funded for overseas masters study. UCL has been a recipient of students on the BEC.AR scholarship programme for the last two years. In 2017/18 UCL received one student and in 2018/19 this increased to three students out of a total of 15.
Although numbers are very small, the platform certainly could be a contributing factor to developing our profile in Argentina. This, along with tailored communications to enquirers, conversion webinars for offer holders, have led to our enrolments increasing by 33% in the last year. In 2018/19 UCL’s enrolments have increased to 21 from 14 in 2017/18.
Following a scoping visit in October 2018, the British Council discussed synergies with priority research areas between the UK and Argentina, with both countries focusing on the same top 5 research subjects, including medicine, biochemistry and engineering. Further positive steps were outlined at the G20 Education Ministerial meeting in Argentina last September whereby a Mutual Recognition of Qualifications agreement was signed between the UK and Argentina, to enable direct access to doctoral degrees of both countries.
The British Council is working with the Ministry of Education in Argentina to build on opportunities for cooperation and links in HE. This includes mobility of researchers, teachers and students as well as research collaboration.
In 2017 the British Council launched its Higher Education Links programme in Argentina. The programme provides grant funding to binational research projects between the UK and Argentine universities. One research project that has received funding so far includes a collaboration between the IOE and the National Technological University in Cordoba. The British Council have also supported the participation of Dr Paul Grainger from the IOE in T20 activities in Buenos Aires, and meetings were held in both UCL and in Berlin last year. Dr Grainger contributed to T20 policy brief papers on the future of work and education, as part of this process.
UCL’s academic connections stretch back for many years. UCL has established long standing reciprocal exchange agreements with the Universidad Torcuato di Tella and with UCL Departments: Economics, History, and Arts and Sciences and the UCL Institute of the Americas will be included from 2020. A Study Abroad agreement is in place between UCL SELCS and Universidad de San Andres in Buenos Aires.
Through partnerships, research collaboration and carefully cultivated relations with colleagues across institutions in Argentina, the British Council, the Ministry of Education and BEC.AR, UCL can position itself as a leading UK institution and raise the profile of Higher Education in the UK more widely.
The increase in student enrolments could be a result of a booming economy in 2017, which sadly saw the Peso plummet in value against the US dollar in April last year. However it does show that despite high drop-out rates, there are academically excellent students who are able to self- fund themselves. The pool may be much smaller, especially in comparison to neighbouring countries, but there is still a pool to engage with nonetheless. The BEC.AR scholarship is also an encouraging indication that Argentina is ‘open for business’ with the rest of the world, and particularly with the UK, whose troubled relations in the past has understandably hindered progress and engagement.
For more information about UCL’s student recruitment activities in Latin America contact Danielle Macfarlane, Senior Liaison and Recruitment Officer (Latin America) firstname.lastname@example.org