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Higher Education

There are six subsystems of higher education institutions in Mexico: public universities, technological institutes, technological universities, private institutions, teacher training colleges, and other public institutions. When all of them are counted, Mexico has 1,250 institutions of higher education. Traditionally, universities operated under their own organic laws and enjoyed considerable legal autonomy; however, in 1973 they were integrated into the national education system. In 1997, SEP revitalized the State Commissions for Higher Education Planning to coordinate more effectively higher education in the different regions of the country.

A pattern of an increasing number of universities and enrollment began in 1940. The country had only 8 universities in that year, increasing its number to 124 in 1980. During the 1998-1999 academic year, ANUIES (National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education) listed 213 universities. Of these, 45 are public universities, where 50 percent of the academic research in Mexico takes place. These universities enroll 52 percent of students pursuing undergraduate education and 48 percent of those pursuing a graduate degree.

There are 147 technological institutes offering higher education. The Ministry of Education (SEP) coordinates 102, while state governments coordinate the other 45. In the latter, students can choose between regular and three-year programs: two years of general education requirements and one year of specialization. There is also another group of institutions of higher education that is not part of the previous two subsystems; some of these are under the SEP and other government ministries. One percent of those pursuing bachelor's degrees and 7.5 percent of those pursuing graduate degrees attend them. Technological universities are institutions coordinated by state governments but created by federal, state and, in some instances, municipal governments. This educational modality was created in 1991 for students who want to obtain associate degrees. The length of studies is two years. As of 1999 there were 36 technological universities in 19 states. In the subsystem of private institutions, there were 598 schools, not including teacher colleges. Private institutions are grouped into universities (168), institutes (171), and centers, schools, and other institutions (259). Accreditation for these academic institutions is issued by SEP, state governments, or other public academic institutions authorized to accredit them. Private institutions of higher education have 27.6 percent of the undergraduate enrollment and 36.5 of the graduate enrollment in Mexico.

Teacher training colleges offer bachelor degrees in preschool education, elementary school education, secundaria school education, special education, and physical education. Duration of studies varies from four to six years depending on the major chosen. In 1984 the national government modified the level of teacher education by adding years to these programs. There are 220 public and 137 private schools of education, attending 11.5 percent of the student population seeking higher education degrees. Admissions to all academic institutions of higher education require completion of upper secondary school. Many institutions require admission exams. There are, however, some public institutions that offer upper secondary education, such as the autonomous public universities, which in turn might offer "automatic" admission to undergraduate studies to students who complete bachillerato in universities preparatorias.

Academic organization is not uniform. Some schools have adopted departmental forms of organization, but these are few. Duration of studies varies among academic institutions, depending on the level and type of program. Some organize their courses in semesters while others do so in quarters. Graduation requirements also vary depending on the type and level of studies. Most students have their knowledge tested through exams, written materials, and oral presentations. In the technological options, on-the-job performance, when appropriate, carries much weight in the accreditation of studies. Students can obtain professional degrees through different methods. Many institutions require written work (such as a thesis, dissertation, or monographic reports) for presentation before an examining panel. Also, students may be required to have reading comprehension of one or two languages aside from Spanish.

Teaching is still done with lectures and note-taking, although the introduction of computers in some places has facilitated the use of other techniques. The quality of education depends in part on the quality of teaching. In Mexico most of the faculty engaged in higher education (62 percent of 192,402 people) are hired on an hourly basis, while only 29 percent work on a full-time basis and 9 percent are part-time.

Public universities and technological institutes of higher education offer affordable education to all Mexicans. Tuition is free, but there are fees for some administrative tasks. In some of the technological institutes, for example, where the demand for education is high, a semester of fees amounts to nearly $150 dollars. In some of the state public universities, semester fees are even lower. Private universities, however, vary in tuition prices, some charge fees that are comparable to or higher than out-of-state tuition charged by U.S. universities.

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