The Regional Observatory on Internationalization and Networks in Tertiary Education (OBIRET) is a virtual information system and a space for reflection, study, debate and training coordinated by UNESCO-IESALC. Its general objective is to systematically analyze characteristics and trends of the process of internationalization of tertiary education in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), in addition to serve as a tool for the planning, implementation and evaluation of internationalization strategies and programs, as well as for the design and projection of related public policies throughout the region. 


Through OBIRET, UNESCO-IESALC plays its role of articulator between tertiary education sector and different stakeholders of society, in accordance with UNESCO General and Regional Conferences on Higher Education.


OBIRET operates with the support of the Universidad de Guadalajara and the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico, and began its activities in February, 2015. Dra. Jocelyne Gacel-Ávila, Professor-Researcher and Director of Division for Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Guadalajara, is in charge of the General Coordination of the Observatory. 


  • Context.

The Observatory was created to meet the needs for higher levels of internationalization, competitiveness and international visibility of tertiary education systems in LAC. OBIRET refers to “The internationalization of higher education as a proactive response from universities to the requirements and challenges derived from globalization and the emergence of knowledge-based economies” (Gacel-Ávila, 2006). 


The current global context calls for internationalization strategies to be systemic and transversal in order to impact all institutional policies and programs such as updating curricular contents and structures, fomenting international and intercultural competencies in students, as well as promoting intercultural understanding and the generation of knowledge with a global perspective. In that way, internationalization becomes a strategic means for fostering innovation and improving the quality and relevance of the tertiary education sector. OBIRET fully subscribes UNESCO’s values regarding the need for higher education to promote a culture of peace that will increase the viability of sustainable human development based on the principles of justice, equality, liberty, solidarity, democracy and human rights. This entails understanding internationalization as “A process of integrating a global, international, intercultural, comparative and interdisciplinary dimension into higher education main functions, in order to foster the values and attitudes of a global, responsible, humanist and solidary citizenship” (Gacel-Ávila, 2006)


  • Scope.

Internationalization is one of the key trends for transforming tertiary education worldwide and thus, it is particularly strategic for institutions in LAC to build capacities to implement internationalization strategies. This process must be comprehensive and central to all educational processes, moving far beyond the mere academic and scientific mobility that has, up to now, been the main activity carried out by regional higher education institutions.


According to studies and analyses conducted by the World Bank (De Wit, Jaramillo, Gacel-Ávila, & Knight, 2005), the International Association of Universities (Egron-Polack & Hudson, 2014), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2008; 2010; OECD-The World Bank , 2009; OECD-The World Bank, 2012), when LAC process of internationalization is compared with the one of other world regions it is generally characterized as still incipient, with limited conceptualization and institutional capacities in terms of human resources, infrastructure, funding, and organizational and programmatic structures. Current global dynamics require that the sector adjusts its strategic definitions, development policies, and institutional management schemes. Therefore, it becomes fundamental to promote the consolidation, institutionalization, systematization and professionalization of institutional capacities and support structures of the internationalization process. 


In this context, the core responsibilities of OBIRET are to foster activities such as

»  Integrating the international dimension into the mission and vision of tertiary education institutions.

»  Implementing a concept of comprehensive internationalization throughout organizational and programmatic strategies.

»  Developing curricular proposals to train graduates with the profile required by the local, regional and global contexts.

»  Fomenting a broader development of joint and double degrees.

»  Promoting the international mobility of students, professors and staff.

»  Increasing the attraction and reception of foreign students.

»  Training human resources for administration and research on topics related to internationalization and international cooperation.

»  Registering and analyzing best practices in internationalization.

»  Constructing databases on international activities in the region.

»  Designing bi- and multilateral as well as intra- and inter-regional agendas.

»  Fomenting alliances among university networks and associations at the regional and global levels.

»  Presenting proposals for internationalization quality assurance procedures and systems at the regional and interregional levels.

»  Promoting agreements on the recognition of studies, degrees and diplomas at the regional and interregional levels


»        References cited

De Wit, H., Jaramillo, C., Gacel-Ávila, J., & Knight, J. (Eds.). (2005). Higher Education in Latin America. The International Dimension. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Egron-Polack, E., & Hudson, R. (2014). Internationalization of Higher Education: Growing expectations, fundamental values. IAU 4th Global Survey. (E. Egron-Polack, & H. R, Edits.) International Association of Universities.

Gacel-Ávila, J. (2006). La Dimensión Internacional de las Universidades. Contexto, Procesos, Estrategias. Guadalajara, Jalisco, México: Universidad de Guadalajara.

OECD. (2008). OECD Reviews of Tertiary Education, MEXICO. Paris, France: OECD.

OECD. (2010). Reviews of National Policies for Education. Santa Catarina State, Brazil. OECD.

OECD-The World Bank . (2009). Tertiary Education in Chile. OECD Publishing.

OECD-The World Bank. (2012). Reviews of National Policies for Education. Tertiary Education in Colombia 2012. OECD Publishing.


  • Lines of action.


A.    Reports and studies

»  Research and studies to identify the characteristics, trends, advances, benefits and challenges of the internationalization process in LAC.

»  Comparative studies for the benchmarking of public policies concerning internationalization in the region. 

»  Building up of databanks on internationalization.

»  Systematization of good practices on innovative modalities of internationalization and international cooperation. 

»  Establishment of discussion forums on different topics of internationalization.

»  Relevant publications on internationalization.

B.    Information systems and diffusion

»  Construction of regional databanks on the internationalization process in the region.

»  Diffusion of initiatives, events, news, calls for funding and grants available for international cooperation projects.

»  Follow-up on International and Regional UNESCO meetings. 

»  Diffusion of audiovisual materials of events and meetings on cooperation and internationalization.

C.    Links with international partners and networks

»  Collaboration with research centers on the internationalization of tertiary education in different countries of the region and around the world.

»  Diffusion of convergent experiences developed in other regional blocks. 

»  Interaction with international networks and associations that promote internationalization.

D.    Institutional capacity building and consulting

»  Consulting services aimed at institutions capacity building for the internationalization process.

»  Organization of workshops, diplomas, and academic programs for the professionalization of staff and academics involved in the internationalization process 


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