UMass focuses on improving and rebuilding Higher Education in Haiti

The higher education system in Haiti, which faced numerous structural challenges and academic difficulties prior to the earthquake last January, collapsed. The major task ahead is to rebuild a higher education system conducive to the future economic, political, and social development of the country. Improving and rebuilding Haiti’s education system, particularly higher education, is at the core of helping the country to realize progress and strengthen its evolving democracy.

The University of Massachusetts Boston, through the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture, and the University of Massachusetts president’s office are leading an effort to create a consortium of colleges and universities to support rebuilding and improving higher education in Haiti. The Consortium will bring together people and resources of selected higher education institutions in Haiti, the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean to identify and solve persistent problems. Although all members of the Consortium will benefit from their collaborative work, problems of higher education in Haiti will be central. The Consortium will be launched at a meeting that will take place in Haiti on October 26-27, 2010.

More than 40 representatives from higher education institutions in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean will participate at the meeting. Among the participating local institutions are UMass Boston, UMass President’s office, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, MassBay Community College, MIT and Wheelock College.

The meeting will focus on:

• Achieving agreement on key principles to guide the Consortium’s approach for rebuilding and improving higher education in Haiti.
• Identifying crucial short-term higher education problems in Haiti that members of the Consortium can help solve within the next 6–18 months.
• Identifying crucial long-term higher education problems in Haiti that members of the Consortium can help solve within the next 2–5 years.
• Exploring potent ways that members of the Consortium can work together to solve short- and long-term higher education problems.

A total of 87 percent of the public and private universities in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area are destroyed. Based on data from the Ministry of Education (MENFP), the Presidential Working Group on Education (GTEF) and the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), prior to the earthquake Haiti had about 159 higher education institutions serving about 40,000 students. Between 20,000 and 28,000 or 50 percent to 70 percent of Haiti’s university population was at the State University of Haiti (UEH).

The higher education system in Haiti consists of a public and a private sector. The public sector includes UEH and the public universities located in a few cities outside of the capital. UEH, the major higher education institution in the country, comprises 11 faculties or schools with about 55 percent of its student population in Port-au-Prince. All of the 11 faculties are in Port-au-Prince with the exception of several satellite branches of the Faculty of Law and Economics in some secondary cities. The number of UEH students outside of Port-au-Prince is 8,000.

Of the 10,700 students who enrolled at UEH in Port-au-Prince during the 2005-06 academic year, 6,897 or 64 percent were in three faculties: 1) 2,800 at National Institute of Administration, Management, and International Studies (INAGHEI); 2) 2,691 in Human Sciences; and 3) 1,406 in Law and Economics. The private university sector follows the same academic and enrollment pattern as UEH. According to the INURED assessment, of the 145 private universities and higher education institutions, 10 provide high quality education and 97 do not have government authorization to operate.

Higher education institutions in Haiti will work with members of the Consortium to identify and address short- and long-term problems. Short-term problems include provision of safe and adequate transitory space, laboratories and academic support programs to allow students to return to the classroom. Long-term problems include physical, structural, organizational, curricular and institutional.

Alix Cantave is the Associate Director of the William Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.