Argentina, University Reform

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Argentina, University Reform

The university reform movement in Argentina, composed of privileged male students, began in Córdoba in 1918. There, in the country's oldest and most conservative university, student protests successfully effected major changes in the administration of that institution, including direct student participation in the management of university affairs and greater flexibility with regard to entrance requirements, class attendance, and course content. The aim of these reforms was to modernize the traditional, elite-dominated Argentine university, making its curriculum more attuned to contemporary issues and problems and opening its doors to more students of the middle and working classes.

The reform movement spread quickly to Argentina's other universities and eventually to much of the rest of Latin America. While a principal emphasis remained on educational change, reform also stimulated student interest and activism in broader political matters. One consequence of reform was the formation in 1918 of a national student group, the Federación Universitaria Argentina, which served to integrate similar federations at individual universities and articulate student interests nationwide. Soon, students and their organizations in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America associated with the reform began to make pronouncements and take stands on a number of issues. Generally, they favored democracy over dictatorship, strongly opposed foreign investment and outside intervention in the region—especially on the part of the United States—and advocated improved conditions for the working classes. The students frequently resorted to strikes and demonstrations to support their demands.

Since 1918, the achievements of the university reform movement have provoked controversy in Argentina. There, periods of extreme student activism and influence have alternated with eras of severe repression during which universities have been taken over by national authorities and purged of unwanted professors and students, many of whom have suffered terribly in the process. Moreover, the effects of reform on the overall quality of education have undergone increasing scrutiny. What was once Latin America's finest system of higher education has since experienced serious deterioration. Nevertheless, Argentina still has some of the highest levels of education in Latin America and the world. Since the 1990s, however, critics have accused the government's privatization reforms of undoing many of the accomplishments of the university reform movement by making high-quality education less accessible.

Students continue to be important participants in national life, and the principles of university reform still have considerable force and influence. The Federación Universitaria Argentina has reflected the political diversity and tensions in Argentina since its formation in the early twentieth century. Leftist groups, Peronists and the Radical Party have all competed for and held leadership positions in the organization.

See alsoCórdoba, University of; Education.


Richard J. Walter, Student Politics in Argentina: The University Reform and Its Effects, 1918–1964 (1968).

Virginia W. Leonard, Politicians, Pupils, and Priests: Argentine Education Since 1943 (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Caldelari, María, and Patricia Funes. Escenas reformistas: A reforma universitaria, 1918–1930. Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, Programa de Historia Oral y Gráfica, 1998.

Ciria, Alberto, and Horacio J. Sanguinetti. La reforma universitaria: 1918–2006. Santa Fe, Argentina: Ediciones UNL, 2005.

Marcó del Pont K., Luis. Historia del movimiento estudiantil reformista. Córdoba, Argentina: Universitas, 2005.

Puiggrós, Adriana, ed. Dictaduras y utopías en la historia reciente de la educación Argentina (1955–1983). Buenos Aires: Editorial Galerna, 1997.

                                        Richard J. Walter

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