Mérida, 19th July 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), designed to provide free and universal higher education in Venezuela, yesterday celebrated 9 years since its creation with new courses set to be offered as part of the institution’s expansion.
Over 187,000 students have graduated from the UBV in the past nine years, with 87,000 students currently studying at the institute.
The UBV was originally created by President Hugo Chavez in 2003, and offers free degree courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It was founded as part of Mission Sucre, a government scholarship program which supports attendance at public universities, and currently has campuses in 335 municipalities across Venezuela.
A UBV press statement last week emphasised the importance of the institution in creating a socially inclusive national education system. “Indigenous people, disabled persons, those of sexual and gender diversity; men and women who for a long time were excluded from the university subsystem today graduate with dignity, with humanity” it said.
Although Venezuela’s traditional public universities are also free to attend, the application process and cost of student support discriminates against prospective students from lower-income backgrounds; a social inequality that the foundation of the UBV aimed to address.
Since its inception, the UBV has overseen a massive increase in the number of Venezuelans with higher education qualifications, from 785,000 in 1998 to over 2,480,000. Venezuela is also now ranked 5th in the world by United Nations body UNESCO for university enrolment levels.
UBV rector, Prudencio Chacon, claimed that the UBV’s achievements in social inclusion were worthy of a “world record”, and that the institution had contributed “to the development of the country and the productivity of the Venezuelan people”.
The comments were made during a floral ceremony in Caracas yesterday to mark the UBV’s anniversary. The ceremony forms part of a series of other celebrations being held in UBV campuses nation-wide, including concerts, artistic performances and dramatised public readings.
Chacon further argued that Venezuela now has a “universal” national higher education system, marking a break from the past when only those from more privileged backgrounds could aspire to go to university.
“This university [the UBV] has made the inclusion of high-school students without a university place a reality…all of this is thanks to the [Bolivarian] revolution,” he affirmed.
An Expanding Institution
The Bolivarian University currently offers 15 courses, including Integral Community Medicine, Social Communication, Agro ecology, and Petroleum studies.
The UBV is set to expand by offering programs in mathematics, sciences and technical specialities. “The idea is…to continue responding to the basic needs of Venezuelan society,” said UBV rector Chacon, further expressing his opinion that UBV graduates “are the agents of the transformation of Venezuelan society”.
In the context of the presidential election race underway in Venezuela, the university rector also argued that because the UBV is based on “humanistic” values and spearheaded by President Chavez, “in the hands of the rightwing, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela would disappear”.