The rector of a university in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, is threatening legal action to block government plans to open a new university on terms that he claims breach constitutional guarantees of autonomy.
Education minister Tito Hoz de Vila's proposal for an "ideologically different" state university to prepare graduates for a global market has already obtained official approval from Bolivian president Hugo Banzer Suarez.
But the announcement of a governing board for the university comprising representatives from the education ministry, the local council of El Alto, where the new university is to be located, and the Roman Catholic Church has met with a mixed reception.
Gonzalo Taboada, rector of the 100-year-old Universidad Mayor de San Andres, said the exclusion of teaching staff from the running of the university and the election of its rector is anti-constitutional. He added that unless the policy was revised he would invoke article 185 of the Bolivian constitution, which stipulates that all public universities must be autonomous and of equal status.
The main aim of the new university is seen as creating opposition to UMSA, but some believe that it will also accommodate student drop-outs. Figures show that while UMSA's undergraduate population has doubled over the past 15 years, graduate numbers have remained relatively static.