In 1997, at the initiative of Professor Francisco Javier Caballero Harriet, the UPV/EHU organised its first Master’s programme in Latin America. Since then it has gradually increased and consolidated its postgraduate academic presence on the continent within the framework of a specific international relation and collaboration project, the UPV/EHU’s Latin American Postgraduate Network.
The Latin American Postgraduate Network now has a total of 17 partner universities from 12 countries, linked through an agreement with the UPV/EHU. The organisation’s goal is to provide institutional support to steer development of the Master’s and PhD programmes offered at the universities in the network. The network itself forms a true academic community at the highest level. It has now hosted over 1,500 students with over 160 PhD theses read to date.
The project seeks to increase the University of the Basque Country’s international presence. Its central objective is to contribute to high-quality academic development in the countries, by working with universities expressing an interest in the scheme. We specifically target universities with significant academic potential that are committed to offering high-quality education, but which are unable to do solely with local resources, due to the limitations of the environments in which they operate. One of the essential methodological means of achieving our aim is to provide a physical presence in partner universities. There are two fundamental reasons for this approach:
It allows us to offer the faculty/student contact that is absolutely essential for ensuring high-quality university education. Our presence allows our partners to offer a variety of high-quality educational processes that they would otherwise be unable to afford.
Secondly, it is important to bear in mind that each country in Latin America has its own specific particularities (institutional, economic, educational, linguistic, etc.) and in this context, problems will arise that require equally specific solutions, different from those pertaining to European contexts. Ultimately, our academic programmes seek to educate the human resources of the partner universities—especially teaching staff— in areas of research that are deeply anchored in specific local needs. Our physical presence enables us to maintain more comprehensive contact with the specific situations that need to be studied.
In keeping with this rationale, the Network has used the following academic criteria in designing the programmes:
We have always been aware that the Master’s degrees offered must be adapted to the specific academic needs of the universities in which they are run. They should therefore be seen as a ‘living’ reality, sensitive to the particular requirements of each partner university. The Master’s programmes do not follow a pre-established routine; instead, each programme is designed to match a specific demand, which is set out for each academic period. The overall approach is for the programmes to offer wide-reaching, open topics that will satisfy different educational interests. The purpose of our work is to provide a curriculum that will be useful to the host university or country.
Therefore, the programme must seek to offer applied content. We are determined to be useful to the host universities/societies; otherwise, our presence there would make no sense. It is important to remember that the countries in question have certain academic deficits, particularly at university level. Hence, the design of the programmes must take into consideration the central core knowledge involved in the areas of knowledge being taught, whilst also focusing the theoretical corpus of the support disciplines on practical applications, oriented towards the specific circumstances of each host country.
The academic offer includes Master’s degree courses and PhD programmes that build on these courses. In keeping with the approach outlined above, the Master’s degrees provided are research-oriented, as a preliminary step towards PhDs.
Finally, one of the aims of the network is to create an ‘academic community’. To this end, the UPV/EHU’s Latin American Postgraduate Network stages an international conference every two years at one of the partner universities. These events offer a magnificent forum for members of the community to meet and share knowledge and information. They also serve to showcase the research work of PhD students. Conferences are a valuable support instrument for research by students in the Network. They also help to network and unite the different universities with which we work.