ALFA III – ALAS
Reform and Development of Masters programs “Animal Science” at seven universities in four
Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru)
My first contact with Latin America was during my PhD study. I spent one year in the High Andes of
Bolivia for field data collection and since then I try to stay in contact with my colleagues in the region.
This field visit was my first contact with a different culture and I was very often surprised about
similarities, but also about differences between Europe and Latin America. As a young and
enthusiastic student I thought that I could help resource-poor smallholder farmers, but I had to learn
very soon that a single person can only contribute to changes in a very narrow scope, but cannot
change a system. I therefore found the idea of the ALFA III program where higher education
institutions are strengthened an extremely attractive idea. Supported by two Latin American
colleagues, I made new contacts to different Latin American universities and started a new endeavour.
Agriculture plays an important role in most Latin American countries providing employment to
approximately 50% of the population in rural areas. The agricultural sector is depressed,
underdeveloped, has low productivity and operates under extreme risks. Livestock species are
invariably components of the production systems. Largely dependent on the native vegetation,
livestock production is constrained by availability of feeds exacerbated by a progressive degradation of
vegetation due to inadequate management and overgrazing. With few options for income generation,
people from rural areas are prone to migrate to other areas, including EU countries, with traumatic
consequences for economic and labor stability.
On the other hand, population growth, urbanization, and income growth in the region are fuelling a
massive increase in the demand for food and products of animal origin, a Livestock Revolution. There
is a need of well trained professionals to capitalize on these opportunities in the benefit of the poor. A
complex holistic approach is required encompassing environmentally friendly productivity options that
integrate appropriate animal management, feeding, breeding, and health, in due consideration of
market opportunities and policies, and concern and awareness in food safety and animal welfare.
Lessons learnt in Research and Development (R&D) strongly underline the active participation of the
farm community. Livestock production professionals need to be trained to address this challenge,
equipped with modern tools and approaches to respond to the needs of the rural communities while
performing as technological change leaders. Training needs to cover subject-specific as well as
generic competencies (soft skills, communication skills, research/analytical skills and entrepreneurial
skills). Universities have to respond to the demands of the labour market by strategic curricular
The importance of education as a vital instrument for poverty reduction and sustainable development
is recognised internationally. The targeted countries need to strengthen their higher education beyond
Bachelor level. Analysis of current MSc programs (where available) reveals gaps in their pertinence to
the rural realities. Current curricula require modifications to be turned into a solid R&D driver of change.
At a regional level, the preliminary analysis of MSc programs also reveals heterogeneity in relation to
curricula, grading systems and duration, so that across-country comparisons for quality and gap
assessment are difficult. Support to higher education improvement should focus on strengthening and
harmonisation of curricula, a process with long term benefits.
The overall objective is the improvement and harmonisation of the higher education area in the field of
Animal Science at the Masters level in four Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru)
using internationally recognised standards.
The Action consists of four major components. Component 1 is the reform of 4 Masters programs in
three Latin American countries (Argentina, Mexico, Peru) and the development of 3 new curricula, one
in Mexico and two in Bolivia. Component 2 is related to the human capacity development. Different
training elements are combined to equip administrative and teaching staff with sound knowledge for
the implementation of the Masters programs. Component 3 is the implementation of new teaching
methods and the development and offer of joint courses. Finally, the 4th Component is the purchase of
new equipment (IT-equipment, literature, laboratory equipment) to support all other activities.
Four universities have a revised and improved Masters program to offer, which is attractive to students
and take into account the special needs of the countries. Three universities develop new, labour
market oriented curricula according to international standards.
Different training elements are envisaged for the (re-) training of administrative staff and teachers.
Short-term training in Latin America includes English courses, didactic courses and project
To ensure the sustainability of the action inter-institutional networks (e.g. alumni network) will be
established and officially supported by the university management through letter of agreements. After
the Action, the partners will hold a bi-annual scientific conference, which is hosted every time by
another institution. The incorporation of a quality management system in the routine of each university
for the continuous evaluation of the curricula is another important contribution to the sustainability of
the Action. Focal points for teachers are identified at each university to ensure the knowledge transfer
within the universities.
The consortium exists of the following institutions:
BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
UNCa-Universidad Nacional de Catamarca, Catamarca, Argentina
UMSA-Universidad Mayor de San Andres, La Paz, Bolivia
UMSS-Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia
URUZA-Unidad Regional Universitaria de Zonas Aridas de la Universidad Autónoma Chapingo,
UADY-Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan, Mérida, Mexico
UNH-Universidad Nacional Huancavelica, Huancavelica, Peru
UNALM-Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Lima, Peru
UPM-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
UCO-Universidad de Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain
Some partners had already well-established partnerships, others reinforced their networks and new
partnerships were developed through the project.
Overview of first results:
A self-evaluation exercise revealed huge differences between Latin American universities. With the
exception of the two Bolivian universities, all Latin American universities have already an on-going
Masters course “Animal Science” in place. URUZA in Mexico has a Masters program on “Sustainable
use of natural resources in the arid zones” which is mostly dealing with agriculture in dry areas, but
ignoring the importance of livestock for these regions.
Some of the universities (UNH, UNCa) had just recently launched a Masters program “Animal
Science”, whereas others have long-lasting experience and already well-established curricula. As
Bolivia, Peru and the north of Argentina share similar agro-ecological zones and have similar rural
settings with resource-poor smallholder farmers; many overlaps in the contents in the Masters
programs were identified. Both Mexican universities are much more advanced and could take a
leading role for the development of Masters Programs in Latin America. Mexico has a governmental
body (CONACYT-Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Technología) already in place, which evaluates on a
routine base all curricula, but also teachers and researchers. Only those universities, which are
successful in this evaluation process, are supported with scholarships for students.
Cooperation between universities within one country, but also across countries in Latin America is until
now very scarce, although no language barrier exists. Universities, especially from Mexico, are more
oriented towards USA or Europe and these collaborations are seen as more prestigious. It is
interesting to note that the two Bolivian partners are currently exploring the possibility to jointly
organize one Masters Program together. Therefore, discussions with higher management are currently
Missing national (only available in Mexico), but also regional funding schemes, which supports mobility
of students, but also of teachers was identified as a major obstacle for the establishment of exchange
programs. Limited knowledge of English or another foreign language also limits option of teachers to
go abroad and do a Sabbatical at another university. On-line courses were therefore identified as
promising tool to overcome this problem and allow students to take courses at other universities
without additional costs. This would also allow the participation of students, who work part-time to
finance their studies. These on-line courses would also help universities, which cannot afford to
employ teachers for all courses needed for the Masters program.
A quality management system is established to ensure that the quality is kept on a high level and
constant evaluation process guarantees the further development and up-date of the curricula.
A joint alumni network between all Latin American partners will be established with the aim to inform
graduates about job opportunities, fellowships, training courses and up-coming important events.
Double degrees and joint degrees are seen as a long-term option for some of the participating
universities, but to make this work a harmonisation of administrative processes is needed and cannot
be achieved within a short time.
Internships in Europe for staff members were seen as important as these visits allow them to get in
contact with other researchers and teachers and exchange ideas and experiences. During these
internships all important aspects for Masters Programs were discussed and meetings with relevant
persons were organized. These internships are also thought to create ownership of various staff
members and make changes easier. Especially the experiences from the Bologna process and the
idea to form a higher education area within Europe are of great interest of Latin American universities.
Contact person: Dr. Maria Wurzinger, project leader