Rev. Fac. Ing. - Univ. Tarapacá, vol. 13 no. 2, 2005, pp. 9-10

EDITORIAL


AUTHENTIC UNIVERSITIES: A PENDING CHALLENGE

The Chilean higher education model can be credited with significant recent accomplishments, especially when it comes to improving the coverage of undergraduate enrollments. Indeed, in the last decade, public and private universities have significantly boosted openings for the growing number of students who pursue a university degree. Nevertheless, the creation of new knowledge is still a pending task within the system.

Development through advanced knowledge is a fundamental source of progress and economic development for a long range trajectory (Ludval 2003, Dorwick 2002). Research shows that scientific investigation and development can yield high economic as well as social revenues, which can increase the former up to 20% (Lichtemberg and Siegel, 1991, Nadiri, 1993) and up to 50% for the latter (Lichtemberg and Van Pottelsberghe. 1996; Frantzen, 2000).

In Chile, advanced knowledge creation is mainly generated in universities. Nevertheless, benchmarks show that the country scantly invests in this activity, as shown by the following:

- Chile spends a mere 0.7 % of its GNP in science and technology, whereas countries belonging to the Economic Cooperation and Development Organization (ECDO) invest an average of 2.26 % (ECDO, 2004).

- In Chile, the number of professionals engaged in scientific research is small. Only one in 10,000 members of the work force falls into this category, whereas in the countries that belong to the ECDO, the number of scientific professionals and scholars engaged in research is 65.5 for every 10,000 (Brunner and Elacqua, 2003).

- Chile has been ranked 35th among 104 countries by the World Economic Forum Index and 37th among 72 countries by the United Nations Program for Development (UNPD, 2001).

- The small number of professionals receiving a Ph.D. from Chilean universities, as well as minimal Chilean participation in the generation of high level scientific knowledge, not to mention the limited number of patents granted to Chilean inventors, suggests that the country is far behind in the creation of scientific knowledge and the development of new technologies (National Science Foundation , 2000, 2002).

- Investment in research and development by private companies is also insufficient, as seen thorough the three year period between 2000 and 2002, when investments by private companies accounted for 18% (Brunner and Elacqua, 2003).

In light of these statistics, the development of science and technology is a must for Chile, a challenge that will demand making decisions regarding public policies as well as assessing the capability of the Chilean university system’s ability to fulfill future needs.

A university’s competitiveness in research and development must consider multiple variables. A natural starting point is to consider research and development projects submitted by universities for consideration by the Chilean National Commission of Science and Technology (CONICYT). It is also important to consider research published in scientific journals recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), as well as the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO).

Within this context, it is important to note that in 2002, 100% of technology transference projects approved by the Chilean National Fund for Encouragement of Development of Science and Technology (FONDEF) were originated in public universities. Similarly, 99.2% of the research and development projects sponsored by FONDEF were carried out by public universities.

On the other hand, if we consider the ISI and SciELO publications submitted by Chilean academics between 2001 and 2003, 98% of the articles in the ISI index and 87.2 % of the works found in SciELO correspond to research originated in public universities.

Based on these facts, it is possible to say that meaningful research is done at long established Chilean state universities grouped by the Consejo de Rectores (Chilean University Presidents Council) and, as revealed by statistics, research by private counterparts is minimal, and has yet to be proven.

In Chile, the concept of “university” is closely related to academic research, which, strictly speaking, is done by few traditional universities. Many private institutions of higher education are institutions whose spreading of knowledge is not based on newly own created knowledge.

The consolidation of true universities, that go beyond professional training programs, is a pending task in Chilean higher education, an enterprise that is the most relevant in the process of successfully integrating Chile into the society of knowledge.




Dr. Emilio Rodríguez Ponce
Rector Universidad de Tarapacá
Arica, Chile