Title: University of Buenos Aires Facing a Continuing Decline in Registrations
Subtitle: COVID-19 and Economic Factors Contribute to a Drop in Enrollment
In the country where university excellence is public, free, and has no quotas, the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) is experiencing a persistent downward trend in student registrations. The first quarter of the Common Basic Cycle (CBC) for 2023 saw a decrease of 11.4% compared to the previous year. A total of 55,857 students registered for all courses, in contrast to 63,044 in 2022.
This decline represents a fall of over 16% compared to the record-breaking year of 2021, when 66,651 students registered. The increase in registrations during that time was mainly due to the virtual learning environment necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar trends were observed in other universities during the quarantine period, including increased registrations from both domestic and international students.
While the UBA had been experiencing growth in the number of entrants in previous years, 2022 already showed a 4% decrease. The current figures are even lower than pre-pandemic records. For instance, in the first quarter of 2019, 62,054 students registered, which was 10% higher than the current numbers. In 2018, there were 58,626 registrations, marking a 5% increase compared to the current figures. However, in 2017, the number dropped to 53,383, which still indicated a 5% increase from the previous year.
Felipe Vega Terra, the director of the CBC, acknowledges that the decrease in registrations is primarily influenced by two factors. One factor is the disruption in education due to the pandemic. Students completing their high school years during quarantine faced challenges in acquiring knowledge effectively, leading to difficulties in subjects like Mathematical Analysis and Algebra.
The other factor is the economic situation, which plays a significant role in prospective students’ decisions. The director expresses concern about how students transition from high school to college and their prospects after graduation.
Marcelo Rabossi, an expert in education, emphasizes that economic crises impact the demand for higher education. This impact is observed not only in the private sector, where students struggle to afford tuition fees but also in the public sector. Many young people either choose to work instead of studying or have to reduce their study hours, increasing the likelihood of dropping out.
Rabossi emphasizes that improving the higher education system requires addressing the problems in previous education levels, especially preschool to high school. Currently, the number of high school graduates remains low, and their level of preparation is inadequate for successful university life.
In terms of specific faculties, the Faculty of Social Sciences experienced a significant decline, with a 26% decrease in registrations compared to the previous year. The decline in this faculty has been consistent, with a 30% decrease in registrations between 2020 and 2021. Since 2018, the number of students signing up for social science programs has decreased by almost 58%.
The decline in Social Sciences is part of a global trend where students are increasingly drawn to science, technology, health, and other disciplines that provide better employment prospects. The competition for students in Social Sciences programs is high, with many universities, both private and public, also offering similar courses.
Philosophy and Letters and Law were also affected, seeing drops of 21% and 15% in registrations, respectively. However, the field of Medicine continues to be highly attractive, with 17% fewer enrollees than the previous year but still maintaining a significant number of registrations. Similarly, Dentistry, Architecture and Urbanism, Veterinary programs, and Exact Sciences experienced growth in registrations.
The increase in registrations is particularly notable in computer science and informatics-related fields, with the new Bachelor of Data Science program becoming increasingly popular. However, the current year saw a slight drop in registrations for this program.
Overall, the UBA is facing challenges in maintaining student enrollments, with the impact of the pandemic and economic factors playing significant roles. Efforts to improve the education system must address the shortcomings in pre-university education while also providing attractive prospects for students in various disciplines.
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