The “Secondarization” of Higher Education in Argentina: Recruitment and Distinction in Institutional and Pedagogical Formats

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:50
Oral Presentation
Sebastian FUENTES, CONICET/FLACSO-Argentina, Argentina, UNTREF/FLACSO/CONICET, Argentina
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process by which private universities in Buenos Aires develop strategies to recruit students from upper-middle and upper classes families. The universities implement pedagogical and institutional actions that allowed them to "hold" students during their courses, fostering students’ belongings and wellbeing at the institutions. I call this process as the "secondarization" of private universities: an adaptation of the format and organization of high schools (“escuelas secundarias”). This designate a set of practices that make the university more "friendly" and "close" to the students: tutoring, participation in student centers and "pastoral-catholic" activities, new students mentored by advanced students, closer relationship between teachers and students, small groups in classroom, and green campuses and technological infrastructure which reminds students the spatial experience they had in private and wealthy secondary schools. The trajectory between secondary and the higher education level is perceived as a continuum. These are instances to preserve the distinction of upper and upper middle class families, because they assure the graduation and attachment to institution and family values, reinforcing social selection in a context of higher education expansion, locally and globally. At the same time, I signal a tension in this continuum and social selection: young students experience university as if they were high schools students which may also mean being teenagers, people who still need to be tutored and controlled. This representation appears as a risk in front of young people who study in crowded universities and develop self-autonomy as a sign of their maturity as future adults. Social selection challenges social representations of age that still are common to different social classes in Argentina.