The Impact of Demand-Absorbing Universities in Mexico's Higher Education System

Lucia Quintero-Re


This paper contributes to ongoing debate on the role that the private sector plays on the massification of Mexico's higher education system. It focuses specifically on demand-absorbing institutions and the changes that their proliferation pose to the private and public balance. The latter which are relatively new, charge low fees and are perceived to be of low quality are on the one hand identified as a mayor driving force for massification and on the other as being a risky quality concern for the system. They have been derogatorily labelled as "patito" universities (literally this means little duck but figuratively it means of inferior or fake quality) and they have been left out of official public policy initiatives.

This paper reports on the most significant findings reached by a case study of the higher education system of a northern industrial state in Mexico. This qualitative research compared the three major types of tertiary institutions in Mexico: public, private elite and private demand-absorbing in order to analyse the role of the latter within the higher education system. Through the analysis of face to face semi-structured interviews with ten higher education authorities the research studied how demand-absorbing institutions interact and are perceived by the public and elite universities.

The findings indicate that that the system is perceived to be explicitly divided by socio-economic groups and that only demand-absorbing universities are purposely incorporating non-traditional students into higher education.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082

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