Results Briefs May 15, 2019

Improving the Quality of Higher Education in Peru

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Students at a Higher Education Institute in Peru. 

Photo: José Alva / Peru Ministry of Education


With project assistance, Peru developed and implemented a Higher Education Quality model, approved under its National Education Project 2021, which provides the framework for all public entities responsible for higher education quality assurance and articulates evaluation, supervision, licensing, and accreditation processes. The Ministry of Education reports that during implementation of the National Education Project 2021, the higher education system progressed more than it had in the previous 30 years.

Challenge

In 2012, Peru had mass tertiary education coverage in line with regional standards with a higher education enrollment rate of around 36 percent. Still, Peru’s higher education system suffered from issues that impeded development of the human capital the nation required to sustain a growing economy: (i) higher education policy making was hindered by weak governance; (ii) universities and the higher education system as a whole were characterized by insufficient funds and limited accountability; (iii) higher education institutions were not accountable for their funding; (iv) the system was characterized by low levels and large variance in quality, including outdated programs, weak institutional capacity, insufficient teaching equipment and laboratories, and low qualifications for professors; (vi) lack of an information system prevented interested parties from differentiating between programs; and (vi) Peru had not established a higher education quality assurance system that could raise minimum standards and foster quality improvements. 

Approach

The Higher Education Quality Improvement Project supported the government’s National Education Project 2021, which adopted a strategy to increase the quality and relevance of tertiary education by creating a higher education quality assurance system (HEQAS) providing an assurance framework across basic and higher education levels. The HEQAS had three goals: (i) to classify institutions and programs into two categories: met minimum standards (accredited) or low quality (not accredited); (ii) to make the classification determinations available to the general public; and (iii) to promote quality improvements in individual higher education institutions and throughout the system. The design of the Bank project considered lessons from experience with similar Bank-financed operations in Latin America, specifically: (i) designing capacity building and strengthening for evaluation, accreditation, and certification; (ii) establishing comprehensive academic information systems; and (iii) determining the relevance of institutional incentive fund designs to maximize their effectiveness in diversified systems of higher education. 


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The project provided support to 135 higher education institutions, of which 20 were from among the country’s 50 universities and 115 were from among the country’s 370 public institutes.


Results

Peru now has in place a solid system for licensing and accreditation and for assisting its higher education institutions to achieve them. Under the Bank project:

  • A total of 1,383 self-evaluations and 456 external evaluations were completed under a model established and financed by the project, which provided assistance through an online platform as well as by financing improvement plans and external evaluations. The project provided support to 135 higher education institutions, of which 20 were from among the country’s 50 universities and 115 were from among the country’s 370 public institutes. In addition, financing under the Fund for Quality Enhancement (Fondo de Estímulo de la Calidad, FEC) was provided to 60 public pedagogical and technological institutes that required external evaluation for accreditation; nearly 80 percent of the institutes that received financing under the Project obtained the necessary accreditation.

  • The FEC provided financing to implement 257 improvement plans, covering all of Peru’s 25 regions, from nine calls for proposals. Five were regular calls and the others targeted specific issues mandated by the University Law: (i) digitalizing university research; (ii) strengthening technical institutes; (iii) establishing the Employment Education Program; (iv) improving the quality of intercultural bilingual teacher training institutions; and (v) strengthening research capacity in universities to meet the basic standards for licensing, improve research management capacity, and develop research competencies. 

  • The project supported an integrated knowledge and information system that organizes, consolidates, and makes available knowledge and information about the higher education system. Information is being collected to feed the system with data provided by the higher education institutions; by project completion, the system had received more than 785,000  visits from faculty, students, graduates, and employers.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), provided $24.83 million to the Higher Education Quality Improvement Project. The Bank’s task team worked closely with the government to adjust the project to its new institutional framework, including passage of a new University Law and creation of a new Organizational Rulebook for the Ministry of Education. 

Beneficiaries 

The main direct beneficiaries of the project are the nation’s higher education institutions (HEIs) and the students at those institutions. 

  • HEIs benefit from a culture and practice of continuous quality improvement and evaluation. It is envisaged that at least 250 HEIs will benefit directly from the project’s financing and that about 600 HEIs will benefit from the project’s capacity building activities. 

  • Students and prospective students who attend and graduate from accredited HEIs and/or from related programs benefit from the results of the improvement plans. It is expected that programs in key disciplines will undertake evaluation and accreditation processes within the next five years, bringing the potential number of student beneficiaries, over a 10-year horizon, to 1,135,433. The main direct beneficiaries of the project, however, are the HEIs themselves. 

Indirect beneficiaries include employers, faculty who work at participating HEIs, students’ families, and society at large (through the information system), as well as other stakeholders, such as research institutions. 

Moving Forward 

The Bank project helped improve Peru’s HEQAS, and several of the improvements supported by the project were anchored in legislation, including the University Law and the University Quality Assurance Policy. Higher education institutions on their own initiative are now incorporating the use of improvement plans in their routine business models. The Bank, under the ongoing Boosting Human Capital and Productivity Development Policy Financing (DPF), is targeting key productivity constraints, inter alia, and enhancing the education policy framework to improve the quality of skills attained through Peru’s higher education system.