Every year at our annual conference we host delegates from all over the world. This year marked the first time a delegate from Chile attended the conference. So, I (Stephane Farenga) decided to take the opportunity to chat to Juan and find out more about why he attended and what HE is like in Chile.
Why did you decide to come to the FACE Conference?
I am an educational researcher at Universidad Tecnológica de Chile INACAP. This is a non-selective institution that enrols many first-generation university students that have some difficulties completing their studies. So, attending FACE was very important to learn how UK universities deal with these same problems.
What was your experience of the FACE Conference?
It was a very nice experience both socially and academically. People were very friendly and willing to share their academic experiences with me. Also, I could learn about many interesting initiatives implemented in the UK that we might be able to apply in Chile.
Can you tell us a little bit about what higher education is like in Chile?
In the past decades, Chile has advanced a lot in terms of increasing access to students to higher education. For example, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds have now more opportunities to continue studying after high school. However, we still have some quality and equity problems. For example, in terms of equity, there is a lot to do in terms of developing programmes within higher education institutions to support new types of students that are accessing higher education.
Does the Government play a big role in Chilean higher education policy?
Government plays a very important role but mostly in terms of regulating institutions and funding studies for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. I believe the Government should have a bigger role in terms of developing or funding programmes to support students to complete their studies. It is not enough to just give people access in terms of places or funding to higher education. Students have to be also supported in terms of initiatives that help them to adapt academically and socially to this new environment.
What is widening participation (or widening access) like in Chile?
I believe that main problems in Chile are not associated with giving access to students but to support students that belong to unprivileged groups that are already accessed higher education to complete their studies. This is mostly the case for technical non-selective institution such as the one I work. We receive many students that are not fully prepared to succeed in higher education in terms of their social and academic skills. Therefore, the main challenge is to find ways through which we can improve students’ capacity to adapt to the challenges of higher education.
Is there anything about the UK higher education system that you think would work well in Chile? And vice versa?
From what I learned about the UK system, I will highlight the emphasis you put on equity issues. For example, the way you use gaps in progression rates between different groups as one of your main indicators. Also, you develop programmes considering a long-term vision, which could be applied in Chile. For example, I found it very interesting that you have outreach programmes to engage students aged 7 years to learn about higher education.
In terms of what could work well in the UK, I believe that the use of a mixed-methods approach were you combine qualitative research with sophisticated quantitative analyses to do WP research could be a good recommendation. In Chile, we have been working with this approach for a while and I believe more valid and reliable results are being obtained.
What is your job (or what do you research)? Will you apply any knowledge from the conference to your work?
I am an educational research at my university department of institutional analysis. My research is focused on finding ways to support students’ academic progression, such as evaluating the impact of different initiatives trough experimental designs or applying qualitative methods to learn about students concerns to be able to develop initiatives. So, the conference was very valuable for my work as I could learn about both specific initiatives that are being applied in the UK context and research methods through which you analyse these initiatives.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just to thank people who organised the conference since they were very kind and I could learn a lot about how UK institutions deal with similar problems as the one we have in Chile.