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Higher Education

The year 2001 marked the 450th anniversary of the founding of Peru's oldest and most prestigious university, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Universidad del Perú (UNAM). At the other extreme, the nation has recently created universities both in the depths of the Amazon region and in urban areas in an attempt to broaden the availability of higher education to all citizens. These foundational stories describe the past and present of Peruvian higher education. Despite a history of economic and political difficulties, the proportion of the population that attain any given level of higher education compares favorably with the nations of Western Europe and considerably outstrips many nations with a stronger educational infrastructure.

University enrollment in 1900 totaled only 1,000 students; by 1970 that number had risen to 128,000. The period from 1960 to the present reflects enormous growth in the higher education system. In 1962, only seven universities served the nation—liberal arts schools at Trujillo, Cuzco, and Arequipa, as well as the venerable San Marcos in Lima; an engineering school; an agricultural school; and the Pontifical Catholic University of Lima. The need for new institutions brought about a quadrupling of the number of schools during the mid-1960s. With the establishment of new universities and increasing enrollments, the higher education student population of the nation doubled between 1961 and 1965. By 1970 the number of universities had been increased to 34, with an increase to 51 in 1990. Much of this growth came initially in Lima in the form of private universities but, under the demands of a greatly increased population of secondary graduates, the government began to found new institutions in provincial cities, including an agricultural college at Tingo María on the eastern side of the Andes and a university in the Amazonian city of Iquitos.

Peruvian higher education, provided by universities, both public and private; higher institutes; and postgraduate centers, is regulated by the 1993 Constitution, the General Law of Education of 1982, and the University Law of 1983. These laws provide for a good deal of latitude in the functioning of higher education. The funding for state universities comes from government sources, and government funds also subsidize the operations of private universities, teaching institutes, and technological institutes. Universities function autonomously, each one administered by an assembly composed of the rector, the vice-rectors, the deans of the faculties, the director of the graduate school, and representatives from teaching and student groups. This assembly holds the ultimate authority over university policy and practice, including the election of the rector and the vice-rectors. Although students are represented on these boards in significant numbers—four students for every three professors—many students feel that the combination of the complicated methods for selecting their representatives and the sweeping powers of the rector to ignore the decisions of the assembly combine to leave the assembly as an ineffective organ of government and the rector as a virtual academic dictator. The ongoing administration of the university falls to an executive committee composed of the vice-rectors, the deans, and a student body representative, and presided over by the rector. The nationwide community of universities is coordinated by a national assembly of rectors, which acts to provide the objectives of university activities, to ensure inter-school coordination, and to oversee university economic development. The Consejo Nacional para la Autorización de Funcionamiento de Universidades (CONUFA) was created in 1995 in order to oversee the creation of new and the continuation of existing universities, as well as to assist with the problems of private universities. CONUFA has charged Peru with the task of creating a new university dedicated to serving indigenous peoples of the Northern Amazon region, drawing on both public and private funding sources to offer programs especially aimed at the needs and life of the Amazon Basin, including forestry management and medicinal plants. In order to provide accessibility to indigenous students, the languages of instruction at the new school will include Aguarana, Ashaninka, and Shipbio-Conibo. The site for the new university will be the grounds of the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Five types of higher education facilities serve the nation. The universidad pública (public university) is a government-funded comprehensive institution comparable to U.S. universities. The most prominent of these is UNAM, the National Autonomous University of San Marcos, which is also the oldest and most prestigious. The second category is the universidad privada (private university), also a comprehensive institution, which receives funding either from non-profit sources, such as the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, or strictly from student tuition. The instituto superior tecnológco (technical higher institute) offers specialized instruction in one or more technologies such as agriculture or engineering. The fourth category is the instituto superior pedagógico (higher pedagogical institute), which is a teacher training facility. Scores of these smaller institutions serve the nation. The final category is the centro superior de postgrado (higher postgraduate centre), a general higher education institution that might be compared with a university branch facility.

The average age of students entering public higher education is 19.7, while private schools average 19.6, reflecting the national tendency for students to take time between secondary and higher education. Admission to vocational training typically requires the student to hold at least the Bachillerator diploma, although some vocational students hold the Certificado de Educación secundaria común completa. Entering students have traditionally been required to sit for either the Concurso or Examen de Ingreso entrance exams. For admission to university level studies, the Certificado de Educación secundaria común completa is required, along with an entrance exam. Increasingly, since 1997 the national bachillerato examination has replaced the examinations provided by individual universities. The number of students failing these examinations each year typically stands at nearly 50 percent. Each university is permitted to determine a numerus clausus for their various departments. Peruvian students pay a maximum of $3,600 tuition for higher education. A 1996 survey indicated that 33.2 percent of students work while studying in the public universities. The number of working students in private universities is 28.1 percent.

Foreign students seeking to attend Peruvian universities must hold the secondary school completion credentials corresponding with their Peruvian counterparts. They are eligible to receive assistance in the form of scholarships and financial aid, as well as being granted employment on campus. Foreign students from countries with which Peru has established articulation agreements can obtain credit for their studies, degrees, and diplomas earned at home, while those from other countries must petition for such recognition. All foreign students are expected to be conversant in Spanish.

The lowest level certification given to students in Peruvian higher education, the Certificado de Educación Secundaria Común Completa, actually represents the completion of secondary schooling. Beyond that, students may earn a Diploma de Aptitud Profesional, which represents a short-term course, averaging one year in duration, focused almost exclusively on a particular professional skill. For more technical fields, the degree of Técnico is awarded. As mentioned, the Bachillerato designation represents a new level of secondary education designed to bridge the gap between secondary education and the university, a gap that has previously resulted in students taking from one to two years between those levels to prepare for the entrance examination. The universities grant the designation of Licenciatura denoting legal licensing in a controlled field. The title Profesor is reserved for those certified to teach in the nation's school system. The highest degrees granted by these universities are Maestría and Doctorado, which are equivalent with the Masters and Doctoral degrees of other countries.

The curriculum leading to these degrees is divided into several stages. The first level of study at the university is termed pregrado (undergraduate) and involves a two-year course of study devoted to general studies. Access to this course of study is based on the competitive entrance examination, either the institution-specific examination or the national Bachillerato examination. Students need to score at a prescribed level on this examination and follow this achievement during the pregrado studies by earning a prescribed number of credits to enter the faculty for their specialization. The period of specialization is two to five years and leads to the title of Bachiller, the equivalent of a bachelor's degree. Successful submission of a thesis, which normally takes six months to one year, leads to the Licenciatura or a professional title such as Ingeniero, Médico, Abogado, or Economista. Achievement of the licentura enables the student to enter professional life. Most of the courses building to the Licenciatura require about five years for completion.

The second level of course work in the university is postgrado (postgraduate). The minimum duration of studies leading to postgraduate degrees is four semesters for the Maestría and an additional four semesters for the Doctorado. Candidates for either degree are required to complete and defend original research work. Maestría candidates must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language while Doctorado candidates must show proficiency with two. In the Faculty of Law, the professional title is awarded after the completion of three years of study after the Bachiller, while medical students must complete five years of study before earning their degree. Universities also award professional titles of Segunda and Ulterior Especialización.

Higher technical and vocational education is offered in the institutos superiores tecnológicos, which focus on technological courses of study, and the institutos superiores pedagógicos, which provide the bulk of the nation's teacher training. Other education is offered through national schools in various disciplines. As of 2000, the nation had established a National School for Public Health, a National School for Public Administration, and the Diplomatic Academy, as well as separate Academies of Fine Arts and Music. These institutions do not enjoy the autonomy of the universities and are responsible to the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, as well as to the relevant ministries of their subject area. They offer professional training requiring three, four, or five years for completion. Upon completion, the student is awarded the professional qualifications of Técnico and Experto in the appropriate field.

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferencePeru - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education