This axis is intended to analyze and disseminate the role of higher education in social transformation and the promotion of dignified, just, equitable and supportive living conditions in Latin American and Caribbean societies. From its analytical content, it closely dialogues with other axes – such as 2 (cultural diversity and interculturality), 6 (sustainable development) and 9 (diversity and the role of women) – however, its focus is on the role and social mission that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) must assume and expand in the face of these and other social challenges.

Therefore, one of the most important topics for reflection is the diversity of forms of connection and synergies between HEIs and other sectors of society and how it is possible to promote and strengthen them. This is the case of the initiatives of social responsibility, territorial responsibility and linkage of Latin American and Caribbean HEIs with societies, communities and social groups, from training, research and extension programs. Emphasis is also placed on the commitment of HEIs to training for citizenship, through an integral vision of education, based on the promotion of ethical, humanistic and solidarity values, related to social justice and sustainable development. Thirdly, the connections, synergies and complementarities between Higher Education Institutions, the productive sector and social organizations are highlighted, where HEIs are recognized as promoters of applied knowledge beyond the classroom, in connection with the practical needs of the productive and social sectors.

Álvaro Rico, executive secretary of the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group

In recent years, the emergence of authoritarian political currents and the anti-scientific discourse associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the importance of thinking about the role of HEIs in the defense of democracy, the generation of an environment conducive to democratic coexistence and critical thinking. Understood as part of the public space, public HEIs are invited to reinforce their responsibilities in citizen training, the activation of debates and the proposal of paths for the collective construction of democratic and inclusive societies. Among the persistent social challenges, inequalities occupy the first place, summoning us to review the good practices promoted by HEIs in the last five years to counteract the different forms of inequality and their intersectional effects, as well as the pending tasks and the measures to be taken both at the institutional level and in connection with public policy and international cooperation to make the societies of the region more just and equitable.

Axis 4 is made up of the following experts: Angélica Buendía Espinosa, Professor-Researcher at the Department of Economic Production of the Xochimilco Unit of the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico; Estela M. Miranda, NEIES-Mercosur/National University of Córdoba, Argentina; Rosana Heringer, General Director of the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE); and Álvaro Rico, Executive Secretary of the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group (AUGM).