Cuba is hosting the XIII Latin American University Extension Congress, as the 100th anniversary of the Córdoba Reform draws close. This historical event, initiated in Argentina in 1918, laid the foundation of the social role of Latin American universities. Inaugurated yesterday June 1, the Congress is being held at Havana’s Convention Center, with more than 400 delegates from 20-some countries in attendance.
The inaugural remarks were presented by Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz, Cuba’s minister of Higher Education, who emphasized the importance of university extension efforts, describing this work as, “the most longstanding and forgotten function of our university systems,” and called for further developing the concept of the university’s social role, focusing on the contribution universities can make to defending national identity, and the need to integrate traditional educational goals with training, research and extension.
Alarcón said that current trends must be reversed, as university extension has moved toward offering a few “crumbs” of knowledge to those without access to higher education, often as a means of raising funds. Studies have shown that broader extension efforts can contribute to greater quality of life in society, a challenge, he said, which means universities “must modify current ways of interacting with their environment.”