Logo Vice-rectors for academic affairs of 40 Central American universities gathered at a workshop in Guatemala City from 8 to 9 October, to discuss the development and implementation of a regional qualifications framework for Central America.
The workshop was led by the Central American University Association (CSUCA) and supported by EUA. It took place in the framework of the ALFA PUENTES project, which is co-funded by the European Commission. Coordinated by EUA, the project involves 23 Latin American and European university asssociations, and is dedicated to supporting higher education convergence and harmonisation processes and to strengthening the role of university associations in Latin America.
The initiative for a qualifications framework for Central America is one of three sub-regional project strands of the ALFA PUENTES project and is driven by the CSUCA, an independent university organisation, in close collaboration with its 20 university members, and the national university associations of Costa Rica (CONARE), Panama (CRP), Honduras (UNAH) as well as Nicaragua and El Salvador. In the current phase, the project researchers are mapping and analysing the qualifications awarded in various disciplines at institutions in the region. In the next phase, generic descriptors will be developed for the qualifications framework (QF).
This month’s workshop was designed to promote the initiative to academic vice-rectors and to debate potential advantages and risks in developing such a framework. Practice was shared by European participants on both the European qualifications frameworks and national frameworks.
Workshop participants were generally positive regarding the prospect of having a regional qualifications framework. Beyond its potential value for transborder mobility, it was seen as a possibility to enhance quality of learning, but also to stress the relevance of university education for society and the labour market. A QF was also welcomed as another building block in the Central American regional (higher education) harmonisation process, which is led by CSUCA, and has over the past decade resulted in joint approaches for quality assurance and study credits. The European case of a regional QF was perceived as inspiring and – given the diversity within Europe – also as proof that it should be feasible to come up with an agreement in Central America. A question addressed was also whether the present initiative could lay the ground for a larger regional framework for Latin America. But there were also some sceptical voices, regarding the inherent risk of bureaucratisation, and that a QF could become overly regulatory or limit academic freedom.
In the course of the next months, CSUCA and partners will be designing a draft regional QF that will be shared with representatives of the academic community, of industry and national bodies.
ALFA PUENTES
 is a three-year EU-supported project that is driven by EUA, OBREAL and more than 20 partners in Latin America and Europe (including some EUA collective members), all of which are national and regional university associations. It is co-funded by the European Commission Alfa Programme.