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Organization of Higher Education in Colombia

Norms

Act 115 of 1994 defines education as a permanent, personal, cultural and social process grounded in an integral formation of human beings, of their integrity, their rights and their duties. It indicates the general norms to regulate the Public Service of Higher Education that fulfills a social function according with the needs and interests of individuals, the family and society. It is grounded in the principles of the Political Chart on the rights that every individual has to education, freedom of teaching and learning, research and chair in its character of public service.

The same Act provides for the organization of formal education in three levels: preschooling, basic (primary and secondary) and middle, non-formal education for children and youth of school age, adults, peasants, ethnic groups, persons with physical, psychological and sensory disabilities, with especial skills and persons who need social rehabilitation.

Higher Education is regulated by Act 30 of 1992. The most important general characteristics of higher education in Colombia are:

  • It is considered a public service that can be provided by the State and by the private sector; it follows middle education.
  • Various types of institutions have been defined according to their nature and objectives (Technical Professional Institutes for Professional Technicians, Technological Institutes, University Institutions, and Universities).
  • There exists a National System of Quality Assurance.
  • The State guarantees the quality of the educational service through the practice of rigorous inspection and supervision of Higher Education.
  • CONACES and its rooms organized by fields of knowledge, is the body in charge of studying the compliance with the minimum quality standards and handing in their report to the Ministry of Education in order to grant the Qualified Registry certificate to the programs.
  • There is a National System of Accreditation in which the National Council for Accreditation participates ww.cna.gov.co, created by Act 30 of 1992, which has the responsibility of publically attesting to the high standards of quality of institutions of higher education and their academic programs.
  • Plans and policies for the development of higher education are, firstly, proposed by the National Council of Higher Education (CESU), a body with functions of coordinating, planning, recommending, and advising, made up of representatives from entities related to higher education.

Fields, level, and institutions of higher education

The fields of action defined by higher education in Colombia are: technical, science, technology, humanities, art and philosophy. (art. 7, Act 30 of 1992). Therefore, all the academic programs offered by Higher Education Institutions must be registered within these fields of action, as must the programs reflecting the purposes of each institution. (Art. 8, Act 30 of 1992). Such academic programs can be enacted at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Undergraduate programs prepare for the world of occupations, for a profession or a determined discipline, of technological or scientific nature in the area of humanities, liberal arts and philosophy. In like manner, the graduate programs labeled specializations, are those undertaken after an undergraduate program and make it possible to advance in the same occupation, profession, discipline or related, or complementary areas. The other graduate programs, like Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral studies are focused on research as their necessary ground and field of activity. A Masters degree is not necessary to pursue Doctoral studies.

University institutions or technological schools are those authorized to offer training programs for occupations, programs of academic formation in professions or disciplines and programs of specialization. (Art. 18, Act 30 of 1992).

Technological institutes are authorized, in compliance with Act 749 of 2003; Article Nr 2, to open programs of preliminary cycles.

The institutions that accredit their performance with criterion of universality in the following activities will also have the status of university: scientific or technological; academic training in professions or disciplines and production, development, and transmission of knowledge and national and universal culture. (Art. 19 Act 30 of 1992). These institutions are also authorized to offer programs of formation for occupations, professions or disciplines, specialization programs, master studies, PhD studies and Postdoctoral studies, pursuant to the Law.

Taxonomy of degrees and titles

Institutions of higher education grant degrees to students once they finish the academic program they have pursued and in which they have acquired a determined body of knowledge. These degrees can only be conferred by institutions recognized by the Ministry of National Education. Degrees are conferred by means of a diploma. (Art. 24, Act 30 of 1992).

Pursuant to the above, in the degrees conferred by professional technical institutes the denomination "Professional Technician in" should go before, followed by the occupation or corresponding field of knowledge. In like manner, university institutions, technological schools, and universities must place: "Professional in... "or "Technologist in ..." before the degree; the latter followed by the referred profession or academic discipline.

For the undergraduate liberal arts programs the degree is "Maestro en..." In the same manner, undergraduate Education programs offered by schools that have the authorization to do so will confer the degree of "Licenciado en...(Bachelor in Education)". Specialization programs lead to a degree of specialist in the respective occupation, profession, discipline or related area. Master, Doctoral and postdoctoral programs, grant the degree of "Magister"(Masters), "Doctor" (PhD) or to the corresponding degree of postdoctoral studies, which must refer to the corresponding discipline or to an interdisciplinary area of knowledge. The national government has the authority to establish the regulations for these degrees pursuant to the laws in force, previous ruling of the National Council for Higher Education (CESU). (Art. 25 Act 30 of 1992).

The nomenclature of the degrees must have explicit correspondence with the type of institution, field of activity, denomination, length and level of the undergraduate or graduate program. (Art. 26 Act 30 of 1992).

Requirements to enter Higher Education

Act 30 of 1992 established the following requirements to enter higher education:

  • For all the undergraduate programs, to posses the degree of High School diploma or its equivalent abroad and to have taken the State Exam to enter Higher Education.
  • For the specialization programs related to occupations, to hold the degree in the corresponding occupation or related occupations.
  • For the specialization, masters and doctorate programs, related to the technology field, science, the humanities, liberal arts and philosophy, to hold a professional degree or a degree in an academic discipline.

You can enroll in the programs professional technicians formation in the institutions of higher education that are authorized to offer training programs in occupations of an operative or instrumental nature, if you have:

  • Passed all the Basic Secondary Education.
  • Obtained the Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) issued by the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) and /or worked in the specific field of said training for no less than 2 (two) years, after the training by SENA.

Whoever completed his High School abroad, and wants to enroll in undergraduate programs in an institution of higher education in Colombia, shall submit, besides the equivalent of the degree of a High School diploma (`previously convalidated), to take the State exam, equivalent to the State exam administered in Colombia. This requirement is accredited before the respective institution of higher education that admits the student formed abroad. Decree Nr 860 of 2003.

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