An Analysis of Present and Possible Futures of Public and Private Mexican Universities: Perceptions and Projections of Current Administrators

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Abstract: This study proposes to answer the question--What is and might be the present and future scenarios of higher education institutions in Mexico according to their leaders' perceptions? Special emphasis is placed on the differences between public and private institutions.

The study emphasized that leaders of private and public universities in Mexico look at their institutions as very different from one other. They recognize their own needs as well as their goals as particular to their own institutions. Both types of leaders identify the importance of their roles in the process of change and adaptation within their institutions. Getting close to the opinions of Mexican leaders in those institutions can help us to understand the present circumstances of higher education (HE) in Mexico, and get a deeper understanding of the complexity of HE in many developing countries, as well as begin to comprehend their future possible scenarios.


The study of the leaders' perceptions and projections of public and private Mexican higher education institutions and consequently the changes to those administrators' roles serves to illuminate how the differences between and within those institutions affect the way their leaders face changing situations in these contexts. Contextual situations such as conditions of rapid population growth, low overall average family income in the society, an increase in student demand, and other situations are explored for their implications in higher education system development.


The world is facing important and rapid changes with the advance of scientific and technological knowledge. Universities are recognized as both maintenance organizations because of their roles in the socialization of people and the transformation of culture, but also adaptive structures because of their roles in creation of knowledge (Katz & Kahn, 1978). In the case of Mexico, the university as well as other educational institutions can contribute to this scientific and technological transition, even though they are themselves in the process of change (Patlan, 1997).

The need for higher education institutions to better adapt to the demands of rapidly changing societies is recognized in many countries, especially in developing countries such as Mexico. Adaptation and change in higher education institutions could be facilitated by the presence of clear goals, where the assistance of higher education senior administrators can contribute enormously. Consequently, the achievement of organizational goals in higher education institutions depends greatly on the ability of administrators to work together effectively and professionally. Changes in society require a new type of professional higher education executive, one who is prepared to deal with rapid change.

This study is based on the perceptions, opinions, and interpretations of Mexican higher education senior administrators regarding how their institutions look and function in the present; what they will look like and how they will likely function in the future; and how their own roles have been affected by the changing situations they face in their own contexts. Special emphasis is placed on the differences between public and private institutions. Following the pattern of most of Latin America, the distinction between public and private higher education is more marked in Mexico than it is in the U.S. In Mexico, public universities are almost exclusively financed by subsidies from state and federal governments, whereas private universities are almost completely funded from private sources and tuition (SEP, 1995). In the past, and because of their institution's charter, the state governors appointed most of the presidents of public universities; that situation produced an immediate political link and fiscal dependency between the universities and the state government. With the increasing autonomy of the public universities, a trend that started with the National University of Mexico in 1933 and was followed for the rest of the public universities through the rest of the century, that regulation changed once they became more autonomous; but, the ties between the government and the university administration still persist, mainly because of the financial dependency of the public university. …


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