From 25 to 27 September, more than one hundred teachers and trade union leaders from all over the world will meet in Buenos Aires to debate and coordinate action to effectively develop higher education and research, focusing on ensuring high-quality universal public education.
The event will provide an opportunity to analyse global trends in the higher education sector, given the different national and regional impacts they are having.
The main topics for discussion at the 8th EI World Higher Education and Research Conference will be:
- The challenges facing higher education in Latin America and proposals to strengthen it;
- How austerity measures adopted in response to the financial crisis are affecting the sector in different countries;
- Financing higher education. University tuition fees;
- Assessment and rankings. How can we measure education quality?;
- Research and academic freedom;
- Progress and obstacles to gender equality and respect for diversity in higher education;
- Union representation and protection of human and trade union rights in the sector.
The opening session of the Conference will be attended by the Argentine Minister for Education, Alberto Sileoni. Also in attendance will be EI General Secretary Fred Van Leeuwen, President of the EI Regional Committee in Latin America and General Secretary of the Argentine Trade Union Centre (CTA), Hugo Yasky, and General Secretary of CONADU (The Argentine Federation of University Teachers), Carlos De Feo.
Latin American meeting
On 24 September a Latin American Meeting of Higher Education Unions met on the Conference fringe at the headquarters of EI affiliate and host organisation for the event, CONADU.
The meeting was a chance to get up to speed with the latest national developments in the university sector.
Several countries, including Argentina, are making progress in securing public investment in university education and reaching important collective agreements in the sector, while others, like Columbia, are still having problems with trade union persecution and privatisation.
Brazil revealed that it has 140,000 teachers working in the public university sector – 110,000 in higher education and 30,000 in technology – and of this number 70% have doctorates. They have managed to bring university education to the most isolated and remote regions, and eliminated salary differences through standardisation. In Brazil, the debate needs to focus on how to sustain this expansion of higher education without reducing quality levels.
Criticism was levelled at governments in Columbia and Peru for not fulfilling their duty to invest in education, while limitations on freedom of association threaten the university teaching profession.
Similarly, Spanish union FECCOO explained the serious consequences of the public sector cuts which have turned the clock back fifty years on workers' rights, trade union rights and investment in the public education sector.
Faced with this wide range of challenges, the 8th EI Higher Education and Research Conference has a common goal: to forge global trade union strategies that can help national unions to promote public higher education as a universal social right.
Taking part in the meeting were CONADU Argentina, PROIFES Brazil, CONTEE Brazil, FENDUP Peru, ASPU Colombia, FAHUECH Chile, COLPEDAGOGOS Honduras and FECCOO Spain. Also in attendance were Fátima da Silva and Denise Mora, respectively Vice-President and Member of the Regional Committee.
Video of Yamile Socolovsky, from CONADU/Argentina, at the 8th Higher Education and Research Conference: