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Ecuador: New National Rankings Leaves Only 10 Percent of Its Universities in Category A

Statistics shown by the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has demonstrated that in Latin America there is still much to do about superior education. In Towards an Education for Everyone's report [es], it is said that only 1 in 10 young people aged 25 to 29 years old have completed five years of higher education in 2010 (a slight increase from 7 per cent in the year 2000).

Ecuador is working hard in this direction to be among the Latin American countries leading in human development [es]. President Correa, a year ago, declared that Ecuador is the one of the Latin American countries with the highest percentage of GDP spending on higher education. In the world, Denmark is the country with highest investment with 2.19 per cent, while Ecuador hits 1.86 per cent.

The National Constitution of 2008 and the Higher Education Law of 2010 have changed the way Ecuador’s universities are funded, administered, and accredited. As part of a constitutional mandate, which establishes higher education needs to be re-evaluated every 5 years. This week the Board of Assessment, Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEAACES by its abbreviation in Spanish) presented the second report of the state of Ecuadorian universities [es]. The first report was completed by defunct CONEA when 71 higher education institutions where evaluated.

As a reference to the first report, officials in Ecuador declared higher education in crisis and even called its institutions 'garage universities', also reported by The New York Times. Today they have forgotten about it; considering many of the so called garage universities were closed down and the actual report only includes 54 out the 71 that were running back in 2009.

Ecuador’s higher education system is undergoing dramatic changes. Francisco Cadena, head of CEAACES has been cautious to identify the process as downgrading, to the effect that only 3 universities were reclassified as category A. He says it's a revamped new process where 48 indicators were considered, to mention: academia, efficiency, research, organization and infrastructure.

As a result of this new process many universities which were category A were moved to B. The Ecuadorian educational system has improved as a whole, according to Cadena. The numbers: There were 7,899 M.A. professors in the 2008, but 11,307 in the 2012; before they had 460 PhD and now 756 PhDs in the academia. Five year ago, a professor earned an average of USD 1,249, today they are being paid USD 2,239.

Full-time employment for academics also increased from 6,046 to 9,994.

3 Universities classified into category A

Rene Ramirez, is the National Secretary of Higher Education (SENESCYT by its abbreviation in Spanish). He has said that this new classification needs to be understood as relative, taking into account that none of the universities in the country under category A are among the first 1000 best universities in the world. "The objective is to get there", he states.

The total of higher education organizations evaluated in Ecuador is 54. Out of these, 28 are part of the public education, 9 are co-financed, and 17 belong to the private sector. We are not clear of the difference between 'co-financed' and 'private'. The following are the top universities in Ecuador as of now and are not necessarily in that order:

1. Escuela Politécnica Nacional - EPN
2. Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral - ESPOL
3. Universidad San Francisco de Quito - USFQ

Ecuador has risen 20 positions according to the Global Competitiveness Index in quality education system, quality management in the academy, internet access in schools, availability of research, and training. Ecuador is now one of the most advanced countries in higher education of latin America, as reported by Europa Press [es].

Downgraded universities demand reconsideration

The CEAACES has said that demoted universities reflect a change in evaluation criteria and are not an indication of lower institutional standards or performance. However, none of the universities in Cuenca (The third city with the most political power in Ecuador) have qualified to the highest level this time.

Cuenca High Life reports that Fabian Carrasco, University of Cuenca's rector is surprised and upset. He wants more explanation about how the new rankings were reached and Carrasco wants a reconsideration of their status. The University of Cuenca, the largest public university in southern Ecuador, was downgraded from category A to B in the latest rankings.

Carlos Cedeño, rector of University of Guayaquil, rejected CEAACES categorization, which placed his institution in category D. "It was inconsistent with the need to properly balance data and reality", he proclaimed. However, Cedeño declared that in the next 30 days he will submit a plan for improvement, according to online newspaper El Tiempo [es].

The great surprise is that Central University and Catholic University (PUCE), both in the capital Quito were downgraded, standing now in category B.

Manuel Corrales, Catholic University's rector said his university is, "Good, excellent, but not perfect and we are always working to improve." PUCE is the only Ecuadorian higher education institution among the 100 best universities in Latin America, by QS World Ranking 2013. Clímaco Egas Arroyo, the vice chancellor of the Central university, defended his alma mater by saying that those three universities that have grown faster, are individual and smaller. Arroyo said Central University receives a larger population (42,000 students) and covers all areas of knowledge (17 faculties).

Obviously there are institutions that were held in category A and others made gains, thus moving up on the scale. All of them have positive commentaries.

D-rated universities will have to improve or else...

Of the 54 universities re-evaluated by CEAACES: eight fell into D-rated institutions. If improvement is not noted in the 2014 evaluation, Ecuadorian officials have the option to close these universities.

Although Ramirez clarified [es] that in 2014, those in category B will not necessarily receive less resources. The university budget in the upcoming year will be about USD 1.3 million.

Ecuador also expects to have four new universities.

Elizabeth Upper Academy student Bradley Ramirez has also contributed to this report

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