Autonomy is a principle deeply rooted in the history of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Latin America and the Caribbean, in part due to their role of resistance to the different authoritarian regimes of the 20th century and their persistence as public spaces for the promotion of citizen, critical and transformative values. For these reasons, autonomy is firmly established as a value to be defended and preserved, as well as expanded and enhanced.

In recent years, the higher education community in the region perceives the growth of threats to autonomy, stemming, for example, from the privatization and commodification of education, neoliberal management models that limit the budget allocated to universities, a situation worsened by the economic crisis that accompanied the COVID-19 health crisis. Attempts have also been made to undermine autonomy from the political point of view, with the intervention in the elections of the administrative bodies of public universities and the constant attacks on the legitimacy of scientific knowledge, which promotes, as a consequence, a relativization of the importance of HEIs.

Ana Lúcia Gazzola, Professor emeritus of the Federal University of Minas Gerais and vice president of the Kairós Group

Although it is recognized as a fundamental principle of HE in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is not just one way of understanding and implementing autonomy. One part of the debate relates autonomy to the role of regulatory and quality accreditation agencies. If the promotion of science and knowledge through training and research is the supreme objective of university autonomy, regulation is intended to guarantee the interest of the student and the academic community, without institutional or corporate preferences. Between the two, autonomy and quality, there should be no contradiction, but an additional field of reflection, in addition to the other dimensions of autonomy to be developed in this axis, such as financial, political, pedagogical, patrimonial, as well as the relationship between autonomy and sovereignty.

The consultants leading the work on this theme are: Altagracia López, member of the National Commission for the Evaluation of Higher Education of the Dominican Republic and President of the Higher Council of the College of the Americas; Ana Lúcia Gazzola, professor emeritus of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil; Carlos Alvarado Cerezo, from Guatemala, Secretary General of the Central American Higher Council (CSUCA); and Rosa María Torres García, coordinator of human development at the Polytechnic University of Puebla, Mexico.


GT.11 Base document (draft) – Autonomy of higher education institutions

GT.11 Base document (final draft) – Autonomy of higher education institutions

Axis 11 – Executive Overview