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Training El Salvador's leaders of the future

Article - October 17, 2011
An educated workforce able to compete in increasingly global and technological markets is crucial for poverty reduction and economic growth in emerging economies.
And the government of El Salvdor are all too familiar with this fact and have, as a result, been increasing access to third level education since the 1980s.

There are presently 23 universities in El Salvador, of which some are secular while others have religious affiliations. Many of these universities were established in 1981, absorbing much of the student population who, because of the war, could not  access the National University.

Universidad Tecnologica de El Salvador (UTEC), was one of those established in 1981 and is renowned for its technical and innovative prowess. In fact the motto which has identified the philosophy of the university since its inception was “technology and science for the development of a people”, and this ethos remains very much alive to this day.

Originally situated in the Chahin building on Calle Ruben Dario in San Salvador, El Salvadorm the UTEC campus began with three faculties: Economics, Engineering and Architecture, and Science and Humanities. The first rector of the university was the lawyer Juan José Olives Peñaterom, but the university has been under the helm of Dr. José Mauricio Loucel since 1992.

Five years after the university was established it was reduced to rubble when a major earthquake destroyed much of the capital in 1986, including the Chahín building. Not one to be overwhelmed by a natural disaster, UTEC built its very own university-owned Simón Bolívar building the very same year. A year later, UTEC built a second building, the Francisco Morazán.

Over the years, UTEC has become renowned for its advances and specialisation in technology, innovation and research. It has accumulated many accreditations including the Association of Central American private universities (AUPRICA) in 1994,  the Latin American network of university cooperation (R.L.C.U.) in 2003 and the National Commission of accreditation of the Ministry in 2008.
Today’s students will become  future bosses and employees, so their nurturing is vital, and universities can also help large companies in their search for technological innovation.

As well as being known for its technological and innovative pursuits, UTEC is also closely associated with polictics, regularly compliling opinion polls via The Salvadoran Opinion Research Center (CIOPS) which is based at the university. Approximately 97 per cent  of the university’s investment in technology and research comes from student fees, with the remainder drawn  from research carried out for institutions such as the Ministry of Education Universidad Centro Americana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA) is another university which has evolved over the years into an  outstanding institute for higher education. It was founded in September 1965 at the request of a group of Roman Catholic families who appealed to the Salvadoran government and to the Society of Jesus to create an alternative to the University of El Salvador.

This has driven the university to focus on undergraduate degrees, research within the social sciences, popular presentation of research results and local peer-reviewed journals. In the 1970s and 1980s during the Civil War in El Salvador, UCA was known as the home of several important Jesuit scholars and intellectuals, including Jon Sobrino, Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, and Segundo Montes. They were outspoken against the abuses of the Salvadoran military and government, and carried out research to demonstrate the effects of the war and of poverty in the country.

The university is widely known as the “university of social change” and is constantly trying to improve education in general – including that of teachers and professors. In today’s education sector, universities have to help one another in order to grow and move forward, and this can be seen in the cooperation programs with universities from the US and Latin American countries.

Large corporations are also beginning to see the importance of helping universities and their development. Today’s students will become those corporations’ future bosses and employees, so their nurturing is vital, and universities can also help large companies in their search for technological innovation.

Technology features prominently in El Salvador´s economy and the Universidad Francisco Gavidia, whose motto is technology, humanism and quality, is another private institute which is helping change the face of El Salvadoran society.

Francisco Gavidia University (UFG) was founded in 1981 and is located in Alameda Roosevelt 3031, San Salvador. It was named after the humanist Salvadoran Francisco Gavidia, who was a writer, educator, historian and journalist.

In 1997 the UFG made a qualitative leap in the use of technology, when it acquired Node Computers with direct Internet connection. A first for a university in El Salvador and was considered a breakthrough, at the time, for higher education teaching in Central America. It continues to serve as a valuable technological resource to support the teaching-learning process.

UFG has been a landmark on the issue of quality, offering open courses in the training of Internal Auditors of Quality under ISO 9001:2000, which have trained hundreds of people from different industrial, commercial and service sectors. The university has also ventured into the field of counseling and consulting where Quality Management Systems are concerned.

From the year 2006 to date, the academic offerings of the university have been updated and have diversified into specialist technical areas of expertise, which distinguish the institution from other national and regional higher education institutes.

In September 2007, the University redesigned its Institutional Strategic Plan 2007-2012, which contains new goals and targets that respond to changes and requirements of national and regional environment.