Professional Development in Intercultural Competence in Higher Education Institutions (PROFIC)

Within the framework of the Erasmus+ program, financed by the European Commission, the UNLP participates in the Professional Development in Intercultural Competence in Higher Education Institutions (PROFIC) project. This project aims to examine the specific intercultural needs and challenges of administrative and academic staff in higher education institutions in Latin America. Intercultural competence is among the most needed by graduates for the modern job market. For this reason, universities are expected to provide their students with this competence and the ability to use the cultural diversity that surrounds them as an advantage for innovation. The project will last for 3 years (from 2018 to 2021). In addition to Glasgow Caledonian University, the coordinating university, other institutions in Europe and Latin America are also part of this initiative:

  • University of the Church of Deusto (Spain)
  • Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi (Italy)
  • Technological University of El Salvador
  • Don Bosco University (El Salvador)
  • National University of Lanus
  • University of Guadalajara (Mexico)
  • Veracruzana University (Mexico)
  • Union of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean UDUAL
  • National University of Cordoba

PROFIC has as a background a previous successful project financed by the EU, led by Glasgow Caledonian University: Erasmus Mundus Intercultural Competence (EMIC). The PROFIC Project will continue the results of the EMIC and will be aimed at the professional development of the staff. Between October 10 and 11 of this year, the second meeting of the members of the consortium was held in London, in which personnel from the Directorate of International University Relations of the UNLP. Among other topics, the lines to follow were outlined to begin with the assembly of an online platform and the workshops that will take place next year in our House of Higher Studies.

Higher education in Mexico has failed to incorporate interculturality: specialists

During the virtual seminar “Development of competencies for intercultural teaching in universities”, organized by the Union of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean (UDUAL) and the PROFIC Project (Professional Development in Intercultural Competence in Higher Education Institutions) of Erasmus Plus , specialists agreed that, as long as xenophobia, inequity and racism are not recognized in the classrooms of universities in Mexico and the world, interculturality cannot be given way.

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Participating in the meeting were Lourdes Budar, director of the Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural (UVI); Esteban Krotz, researcher at the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY); Héctor Muñoz, researcher at the Autonomous Metropolitan University Unit Iztapalapa (UAM-I); Dane Lukic, researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University London (GCU) and coordinator of the PROFIC project, and Roberto Escalante, general secretary of UDUAL.

For Lourdes Budar, the enormous cultural diversity offers universities a fundamental challenge for the immediate future, since her work should be committed to the development of intercultural skills to build pertinent channels of communication with alterities. In this sense, assuming interculturality as a scenario of equality does not imply that the structures of submission and the asymmetries between groups, the racist and colonialist logics disappear, since “sometimes they only mask them in a hollow discourse of inclusion”, he affirmed. she.

Respect for cultural diversity, management of norms and values ​​that recognize and legitimize cultural and ethnic plurality, processes that promote equal opportunities, recognition and appreciation of socio-linguistic pluralism, reduction of prejudices that tend to to prioritize one culture over another and the promotion of horizontal dialogues are some of the intercultural competencies that should guide respectful relationships in our universities, he pointed out.

Cultural diversity is as necessary for the human race as biological diversity is for living organisms; in this sense, it constitutes the common heritage of humanity and must be cared for and consolidated for the benefit of present generations, assured Esteban Krotz, who also recognized that from an anthropological point of view there is not just one culture but many.

In order to promote interculturality in universities as a practice of respect for the fundamental rights of people and as the creation of spaces for the exchange of positions, visions, ways of living and ways of explaining life, ways must be found to show that multiculturality is a normal condition and not a representation of delay. Likewise, it is necessary to find more humane forms of coexistence and create conditions of technological equality, in addition to eliminating persistent internal colonialism, Krotz proposed.

For Héctor Muñoz, a broader ethical, scientific and organizational effort is required that includes legal regulations, systems of intercultural trainers and a relevant, differential and quality school system, in addition to intercultural academic models and professionalization processes, the above as part of a study carried out in several important universities in the country.

Muñoz lamented that the political times in Latin America and the Caribbean suggest that this negotiation will be prolonged and not devoid of ideological conditioning and fears of alleged separatism and differential privileges.

Dane Lukic, indicated that due to the growth of diversity in the higher education system in recent decades, the need to develop skills not only to study but to work has increased and that these skills, collectively called intercultural competence (IC), allow study, live and work effectively across different cultural boundaries.

One of the objectives of PROFIC is that higher education institutions (HEIs) provide their students with the skills to work, study and live together with different cultures and use the cultural diversity of their environment as an advantage for innovation.

According to Lukic, there is an expectation that this generic competence will be developed in the university curriculum instead of being an additional activity. Even when university staff have high levels of IQ it does not mean that they are fully prepared or have the tools to incorporate it into their teaching and interaction with students.

Finally, Roberto Escalante emphasized that intercultural skills and competencies are a central issue for human coexistence and that globalization has placed them in a much more relevant space.

He categorically recognized that some universities are centers where cultural incompetence is reproduced, since racism, xenophobia and contempt for other races are cultivated, which is why a project like PROFIC, which works with universities, is essential , not only to resolve the problem of intercultural competencies within itself, but also to influence the performance of individuals who emerge from universities in the world of work.