The rector of the University of Cuenca says he is “surprised and upset” by the latest government rankings of Ecuador’s univerities. The University of Cuenca, the largest public university in southern Ecuador with more than 20,000 students, was downgraded from category A to B in the latest rankings. The University of Azuay, the city’s largest private university, was also demoted from A to B.
The Ministry of Education office that compiles the rankings, the Consejo de Evaluación, Acreditación y Aseguramiento de la Calidad de la Educación Superior (CEAACES), said that the downgrades of the Cuenca universities, as well as several others, reflect a change in evaluation criteria and are not an indication of lower institutional standards or performance. Out of 54 universities that were evaluated, only five made the A list.
CEAACES says it is now putting more weight on the percentage of full-time faculty, faculty with Masters and Ph.D degrees, and research in the new evaluations. The criteria, according to CEAACES, is used in such countries as France, the U.S., India and South Korea.
The rankings sytem was established after President Rafael Correa instructed the country’s education ministry to “raise the universities from mediocrity.” Correa is a former university professor who earned graduate degrees in the U.S. and Belgium.
University of Cuenca rector Fabian Carrasco says that his univeristy has worked hard to improve in areas such as teacher training, research and increasing the number of full-time faculty. “So we are disappointed in this evaluation. We want more information about how the new rankings were reached and we want a reconsideration of our status.”
Carrasco said that the retirement of a large number of faculty in 2011 and 2012 may have been a factor in the new ranking. “Replacing the experiece that we lost takes time,” he said.
The University of Cuenca and University of Azuay join the Universidad Politecnica Salesiana-Cuenca as category B institutions.
Francisco Cadena, CEAACES director, defends the new evaluation system as essential to improving higher education in Ecuador. “We must have universities that prepare our students for the international arena and international markets. We must develop research that makes us competitive in the areas of scientific and technological knowledge as well as in the social sciences that will help us improve the lives our our people.” He added: “Ultimately, we must make our universities real centers of applied knowledge.”
Carrasco says he still considers the University of Cuenca to be a class A university and questions CEAACES’s evaluation process. “I think there may have been mistakes made and we want an opportunity to explain to them the steps we have taken to improve our status. We are one of the best two or three universities in Ecuador and have been recognized internationally for the quality of our programs.”
Of the 54 universities evaluated by CEAACES, eight fell into the “sub-stanard” D category including Cuenca’s Catholic University. D-rated institutions have 30 days to deliver a plan for improvements to the ministry of eduation. If improvement is not noted in the 2014 evaluation, the ministry has the option to close the university.
Photo caption: A classroom building on the University of Cuenca campus; photo credit; U. of C. rector Fabian Carrasco; Photo credts: El Tiempo