The development of quality assurance (QA) systems in Latin American countries has been a topical issue for over a decade, both nationally and in the context of the Latin American Higher Education Space, which is now driven by ‘ENLACES’, an agreement of major university associations across the region (). Many countries have either developed new QA agencies, tasked with both accreditation (Panama and Nicaragua), or have established agencies that have been reforming their models and re-defining how they engage with universities, to instill a better quality culture at the institutional level (Colombia and Argentina).
At the same time, regional cooperation around QA/accreditation has grown and is something which ENLACES supports: CONEAU plays a major part in regional accreditation within ‘ARCUSUR’ and the Mercosur Educative Network (Action Plan 2016-2020 – Sector Educativo del MERCOSUR); CCA has been promoting accreditation across Central America (CA), including in countries that do yet have QA systems; existing LA agencies have cooperated in the past in the context of the network RIACES to build capacity in QA; Finally, ANECA is implementing its “AUDIT-Centroamérica” project along with the CCA, which deals directly with the development of internal QA in universities in Panamá, Costa Rica and Honduras.
These actions should ultimately enhance trust and contribute to the mutual recognition of degrees and credits across borders in Latin America and the realization of ENLACES, under which quality, comparability of systems, recognition and ultimately mobility are all goals. But much work is still to be done.
Despite the existing opportunities for capacity building, there remains a considerable demand to strengthen internal QA procedures within universities, especially linked to certain fields. For example, in the context of the European Higher Education Area, it has been found that linking QA systems to recognition can facilitate more systematic recognition of accreditation decisions across borders, especially when recognition is traditionally done in such differentiated and often non-schematic ways. Enhancing internal QA management and linking it to processes for recognition should improve the international stance of universities in LA, especially when geared towards standards that have been agreed internationally. In addition, it is important that QA and related structural matters such as recognition become shared endeavours of QA agencies, national authorities and universities, so that each national system with its national ‘architecture’ for QA and accreditation is recognized across borders.
EQUAM-LA hence proposes to support universities and national agencies to work together to improve and reinforce internal QA management and processes and link them to specific areas, like recognition, so as to underpin regional integration.