There are five institutions of higher learning in Guatemala, all located in the capital city. The most prominent of these is the Universidad de San Carlos (USC), the country's largest institution of higher education (and the largest in Central America) with an enrollment of over 60,000 students. As the only public university in Guatemala, USC offers a comprehensive list of degree options in business, education, the arts, medicine, law, agriculture, veterinary, and in other disciplines. The university also operates a number of satellite or complimentary campuses located throughout the country.
The remainder of Guatemala's universities are private: the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, the Universidad Rafael Landivar, the University of Francis Marroquin, the University of Mariano Galvez, and the University of Galileo, the country's youngest university. Many of the private universities in Guatemala are linked to the Roman Catholic Church (la Universidad de Francis Marroquin was established by an Archbishop, for example), although the la Universidad de Mariano Galvez is a Protestant church-governed institution. All institutions offer a variety of degree and certificate programs in all areas of study, including arts and letters, business, medicine, law, engineering, and agriculture.
Admission to universities in Guatemala is based on applicants' holding of the bachillerato (equivalent to a high school diploma), a knowledge of Spanish, and, in the case of the private schools, a satisfactory grade on the appropriate Examen de Admision (entrance examination). Once enrolled, students must obtain a minimum grade of 51 percent to pass coursework; at some private institutions, a minimum grade of 61 percent is required. When students complete their programs of study, they are issued a diploma by Guatemala's Minister of Education, not by the individual institution. Students from other countries may enter Guatemala's universities provided they have credentials similar to the bachillerato and a knowledge of Spanish.
Students may complete many different types of programs at the university level. The first stage is known as the licenciatura. This is equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the United States. A student receives this credential after three to seven years of study, depending on the subject area: a technical certificate (tecnico) requires three years of study, a degree in Arts and Sciences requires four years; a degree in ingeniero (engineering), requires five to six years; and a degree in medicine requires seven years. Usually each degree is accompanied by some type of professional certification. Also as part of their mandatory curriculum, students must complete a seminar in Social Issues, which requires them to write about a significant problem facing Guatemalan society, such as the illiteracy rate. The school year lasts from January to October.
Beyond the licenciatura is the maestrado (master's degree), which requires two years of additional study and a thesis, and the doctorado (doctoral degree), which requires two years' study in addition to the time required for the maestrado. Doctoral students must also complete a thesis in one of the following areas: law, humanities, education, economics, or social sciences. To combat the illiteracy problem, each graduating university student must complete an internship which requires them to teach five Guatemalans how to read and write as part of his/her program of academic study.
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