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Title: A cultural political economy account of higher education in Mercosur
Author: Barlete, Aliandra Raquel Lazzari
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 945X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis looks at the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and its Education Sector (SEM) to explain the role of HE in region-building over time. Mercosur is a regional organisation launched in 1991 among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. Venezuela became a full member in 2012, and Bolivia is in process to acquire full membership. The research aims to shed new insight on the changing place, players and space of HE in region-making by means of a historical analysis of Mercosur HE projects from 1991 until 2016. It argues that understanding Mercosur's HE sectoral regionalism should be done in relation to the broader development of Mercosur as a region, as well as to the different scales of rule that shape these social relations. The thesis aims to answer the main question: 'what is Mercosur HE a case of?' I understand Mercosur HE as a relational space (Harvey 2006), therefore constructed in relation to Mercosur as a region. This process spans external and internal influences grounded in economic, cultural and political dynamics (Robertson, Olds, Dale, & Dang, 2016) that are specific to the experience of Latin American regionalisms. The study adopts a Critical Theory approach to understanding social worlds, including social change (R. W. Cox & Sinclair, 1996). It used critical realism in order to identify the relationship between the outcomes and the action of mechanisms in context (Pawson & Tilley, 1997; Sayer, 1992, 2000). To address the research questions, I traced the historical trajectory of Mercosur's HE using Process Tracing (Falleti, 2016; Trampusch & Palier, 2016). The framework of Critical Junctures (Collier & Collier, 1991) indicated five moments of change and legacy in the historical development of Mercosur HE. The data analysed was a combination of documentary analysis, unstructured observation and interviews, collected in two fieldwork trips to Latin America in 2016 and 2017. I analysed them as text using critical discourse analysis (CDA) with a focus on external relations of texts (Fairclough, 2003). The analysis shows that, in considering Mercosur HE as a spatial regional organisation, there are four features which are transversal through time: first, the role of the Coordinating Committee (CCR) in shaping the HE Sector; second, the weak institutionality of Mercosur HE limits the resources and capacity to implement decisions and activities; third, the events of the meetings appear as the principal mechanism for governing the HE Sector and setting the pace of the changes in HE in the region; and, finally, the evident role of Argentina and Brazil in leading the HE Sector. Results also point out Mercosur HE's contradictions. On the one hand, its weak institutionality prevents the efficient shift from ideational to material, yet the awareness of this deficit does not alter the regularity of its meetings and the Sector's operation. On the other, the high level of diversity amongst its Member States' HE systems did not hinder creating outputs, such as the accreditation and the mobility projects. Finally, a key aspect to impulse the legitimacy of Mercosur HE is to fulfil its primary role of promote regional integration by strengthening its relationship with Mercosur's economic and political project. One can only exist in relation to the other.
Supervisor: Robertson, Susan ; Dale, Roger Sponsor: University of Cambridge ; Bristol University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Higher Education ; Regionalism ; Latin America ; Mercosur ; process tracing ; critical junctures ; Cultural Political Economy ; critical realism ; critical theory ; Mercosur Education Sector