Colombia plans to build rural colleges

August 18, 2006

Colombia plans to increase the number of public community colleges across the country to help boost university enrolment rates.

Javier Botero, Colombia's Deputy Minister of Higher Education, said: "One of the major challenges is to tackle our low university enrolment rates.

Only 25 per cent of 18 to 23-year-olds are enrolled in higher education courses across the country."

An acute shortage of higher education colleges and universities outside major cities and in rural areas has been attributed to low university enrolment rates. "Some 60 per cent of (institutions) are concentrated in five cities, including the capital," Mr Botero said.

An increasing number of local community colleges, designated Regional Centres of Higher Education (Ceros), are being built outside the main urban areas and in isolated rural regions. The ministry plans to create 20 Ceros this year, providing 8,500 more student places.

In the past three years, 82 Ceros have been built at a cost of about 9.7 billion pesos (£2.13 million), with a large proportion of the budget spent on computers and high-speed internet connections. Most Ceros offer technical and vocational training courses reflecting the needs of the local economy and industry.

Ceros courses often allow students to work and study at the same time.

Most Ceros students take three years to complete degrees, while those attending mainstream universities usually take five years to finish their studies.

Mr Botero said that the aim was get 50 per cent of 18 to 23-year-olds enrolled on higher education courses by 2019.

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