Higher Education and Research for
Productive International Competitiveness
Iris Guevara
NEOLIBERAL POLICIES AND HIGHER EDUCATION

In Mexico, as a result of implementing policies of fiscal discipline, the State has reduced its role in public education, specifically in public higher education, as well as in science and technology, despite important transformations in production and commercialization processes on the global level. This has undermined the possibility to advance in true economic cooperation, both internally and internationally. While higher education in developed countries, as well as science and technology production, have been central to stay on the cutting edge in economic terms, in our country, the State has focused its efforts on supporting primary education, leaving out secondary and higher education.

The distribution of the State’s spending on different educational levels is proof of this, even though secondary and higher education has the greatest demand.

Figure 1. Federal Spending by Educational Level

Source: Prepared by the author based on data from government reports in 1989, 1994 and 2007.

“In 1990, spending on higher education was at a level equivalent to 40.1% of the spending oriented towards primary education; by 2002, federal spending on higher education was only equivalent to 30.1% of what was being spent on primary education” (Didrikson, 2006: 19). In 2006, federal spending on higher education fell to 28% of what was allocated for primary education.

Cutting edge productive processes require a wide variety and diversity of knowledge, much of which comes from research centers, universities and technological institutions. Although globalization tends to homogenize the capacities that workers must have, there are strong differences between countries that produce science and technology and those that buy it and copy it. This huge gap highlights the need for training in developed and undeveloped countries. Likewise, we can see in Mexico that the gap between educated and uneducated social groups has only widened.

In many developed countries, national development policies focus on “human capital” as the foundation of productive reinsertion for local economies. In general, we can state that education linked to other sector policies is a fundamental factor for national development, and to increase competitiveness.