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Record demand for tertiary places in a country with a thirst for education

Article - November 6, 2012
Higher education in Mexico has grown steadily, with regulations that foster development in the sector
Wheels of growth have begun to turn, and prosperity is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The last decade has been synonymous with development and there have been no exceptions within the education sector in Mexico.

According to INEGI, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, 2012 registered the largest demand for higher education in the country’s history. In 2009, an estimated 2.3 million students earned college degrees, nearly 300,000 more than in 2005.

Spokesman for Tec Milenio Demetrio Morales says there is a “strong need for a trained labour force with professional studies,” and he believes that this need, in addition to the many young people who actually want to earn degrees, has been responsible for the system’s rapid growth over the past 10 years.

Such demand can be seen in the 31,000-plus students currently enrolled in the various programs of Tec Milenio, a branch of the highly respected Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM), and one of many institutions that cater to the creation of a skilled labour force in Mexico. Tec Milenio now encompasses more than 33 campuses nationwide, including an online programme to suit the needs of virtually any student.

Tec Milenio and other academic institutions in Mexico are backed by the full support of the National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education (ANUIES). In fact, with the help of recent government policies such as the reform signed in 2012, which made secondary education obligatory for all citizens, ANUIES has been largely responsible for improving the infrastructure in higher education institutes all over the country.
Founded in 1950, ANUIES is comprised of around 165 universities and institutions for higher education, both public and private, and participates in the formation of programmes, plans and national policies aimed at developing higher education in Mexico. The association is committed to the development of the affiliated institutions in the areas of cultural dissemination, teaching and research within the context of democratic principals of plurality, freedom and equality, in order to promote cooperation, internationalisation and academic exchange among members.

ANUIES played a key role in the creation of a national non-profit civil association that aims to bring together Mexico’s industrial and higher education sectors, called the Fundacion Educacion Superior Empresa. ANUIES has also been an advocate of expanding access to education through the design and development of distance learning programmes that have a wider national reach.

Other organisations, specifically the student movement YoSoy132, are also calling for reforms to the education sector in Mexico. YoSoy132 officially formed in response to student frustrations over biased media and its distortion of national politics, and has established itself as a peaceful, non-partisan, student-based organisation that is political in nature, but stands for plurality and the right to make informed political decisions.

The new student union is not only demanding the right to education, but also the right to employment and a secure future as well – something a little less certain for Mexico’s rapidly growing middle class.

Although President Felipe Calderon rightly boasts about the creation of more than 2 million jobs during his presidential term since 2007, critics say that many of the jobs call for a cheap, unskilled labour force that does not support the number of trained professionals entering the job market each year. 

While the type and quality of labour demanded is certainly a concern for the large number of university graduates, it may simply be a matter of time before the demand for skilled labour catches up to the increasing supply of trained professionals. Many institutions have been placing more emphasis than ever in the field of research and scientific investigation, and this not only spells great opportunities for graduates, but something far greater for the development of Mexico as a whole.