UK deals mark new era in Colombian exchange

Agreements signed by Colombian and UK universities will herald a new era of academic cooperation between the nations, according to the president of the country.

December 1, 2011

Credit: Getty
Academic leads: Juan Manuel Santos with David Cameron. Colombia's president envisages more scholarly partnerships

On a state visit to London last week, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said the signing of five deals between the South American state and British education institutions was merely a start that could lead to further partnerships.

More PhD students will be heading to the universities of Leicester, Brunel, Swansea and Southampton under a deal with Colciencias, the Colombian body for science, innovation and technology. Other agreements include contracts for the Institute of Education, University of London, to improve postgraduate study in Colombia, and there will be more cooperation between Colciencias and the University of Edinburgh at the doctoral level.

"This programme is very important, and we are working to see if we can enlarge it," said Mr Santos, who is an alumnus of the London School of Economics.

Improving the number of domestic PhD students is a key aim for the emerging economy, as only 909 doctorates were awarded there between 2001 and 2010, although triple that number were awarded to Colombians studying abroad.

Substantial investment in the university sector is expected over the next eight years, thanks to a new bill that ensures that 10 per cent of all oil and gas revenues - a predicted £3.2 billion - is invested in research and development.

There are currently 1,800 PhD students studying in Colombia, but there are subsidies for graduates to study abroad.

"We are supporting PhD programmes in Colombia, but the capacity is not large enough," said Javier Botero, vice-minister for education. "We have to send 700 students abroad each year, and that is something we want to do in partnership with the UK, Germany and Spain. The US is a big partner, but the UK could be, too."

Other projects under discussion include attracting more foreign lecturers to Colombia, where there are security concerns.

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