LATINA: UNIVERSIDADES EN TRANSICIÓN (Latin America: Universities
in Transition), by Simon Schwartzman. Washington, D.C.: Organization of
American States, INTERAMER 61, Serie Educativa, 1996.
Reisberg, International Higher Education, Boston College)
In América Latina: Universidades en Transición, Simon Schwartzman
moves from the historical origins of the university to its evolution in
Latin America and the characteristics that underlie the dilemmas facing
higher education in the region today. He reminds us that although the early
influences on the development of the Latin American university were distinctly
European, educators made different choices in critical areas that resulted
in an autochthonous model for higher education in this region. He proceeds
adeptly from a broad comparative perspective to a regional one until he
is focused on those key contemporary issues being discussed from Mexico
to the Southern Cone - financing and the need to respond to severe economic
constraints, enrollment expansion, the changing profiles of students and
professors, the distinct roles of private and public institutions, the development
of graduate programs, and support for research.
Schwartzman uses examples from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and M?xico
to document trends in the development of higher education since the 1950s.
Although these countries offer some contrasts and illustrate different policy
directions, it is unfortunate that examples from the poorer countries -
such as Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Paraguay, or Peru - have not been
included since they might have broadened the important regional perspective
that the book provides. Not surprisingly, Schwartzman draws heavily on the
experience of Brazil - including a chapter at the end of the book on the
evolution of private education.
América Latina provides an important summary of problems and policy decisions
made in recent years. Schwartzman provides an insightful analysis of different
solutions and their implications in each of the countries studied. In his
conclusion he reminds us that the political constituencies - student federations,
faculty, unions, and military governments - that shaped policy in the past
are being replaced by new voices that will have an increasing role in shaping
policy in the future - parents of university students, individuals and institutions
who employ university graduates, and citizens who pay the bill for higher
education. These new constituencies will place quality and accountability
high on their list of demands.
Although pieces of this story have been captured in articles published in
recent years, few books have been published that so effectively capture
the issues preoccupying policymakers and researchers interested in this
region. América Latina is a most welcome addition to the literature.