On the 14th October 2016, the British Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast conference with Dr. Enrique Graue Wiechers, the Dean of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM for its acronym in Spanish) – the largest university in Latin America.
The conference was composed of an interview conducted by BritChaM President Emilio Díaz interviewing the dean with a set of questions, some previously written by the Chamber’s Education Business Sector Group, but also taking questions from the audience.
Emilio Díaz, BritChaM President, and Dr. Enrique Graue Wiechers, Dean of UNAM.
The first questions focused on how the UNAM promotes the right degree choices amongst its students to help them become valuable and successful members of the Mexican workforce. In essence, three main issues were raised with a degree of concern: a lack of engineers, an oversuply of lawyers, and the difficulties in creating a new blend of careers adapting to evolving markets. The Dean quelled these fears explaining the number of students studying technical degrees has risen dramatically. He did raise the valid concern that we are seeing a rise in fascism demonstrated by recent global and political events and that people may be closing off when they need to be thinking more globally. At UNAM, there is a strong focus on research, entrepreneurship, invention and innovation. However it is not enough for students to research an area of study, they need to target their investigation towards solving real problems. The university is also developing new degree courses such as File Administration and Document Management to help Mexico develop faster by making the workplace more efficient. Students need to understand their place and importance in achieving these collective goals.
Attendees enjoyed the open dialogue at Marquis Reforma Hotel.
There were questions from the audience regarding how the university plans to help students compete globally. Dr.Graue acknowledged that students should learn English as “the world is global and English is the global language”. UNAM has some degrees available in English and all students are expected to achieve a decent level of reading comprehension.
UNAM also has partnerships with international universities, including 5 from the UK, where over 50 students went to study last year and 28 professors have visited. He defended UNAM against criticism of its English standards and place in world rankings; explaining that Harvard is high in rankings as it is not faced with the challenge of subsidizing university education to over 50,000 students from different backgrounds, as is the case of UNAM. Despite sugarcoating from other institutions, “Mexico is a poor country” with approximately 10% of the population considered to be living in extreme poverty, 30% in poverty and another 30% considered vulnerable to poverty. This leaves 20% who are able to comfortably afford tuition at private universities, which make up 28% of total universities in Mexico.
Therefore, 8% of families are making a big effort to pay for private universities. UNAM’s goal is to be “a motor of social change”, something the University achieves when indigenous students coming from severe poverty graduate with technical skills and a degree – “What about your rankings now?” asked the Dean.
Dr. Graue meet and greet BritChaM members.
When questioned about budget cuts Dr. Graue acknowledged that UNAM was not hit as hard as other public institutions and, in fact, had a 0.5% increase in budget compared to the previous year. However, while “do more with less” is a nice idea, it’s hard to “do a lot more with less.”
Closing the event, Emilio Díaz thanked Armando Nuricumbo, Head of Financial Group at BritChaM, for inviting the Dean to dialogue with Chamber members.
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