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COLOMBIA - Health & Education

Raquel Bernal

Dean, Universidad de los Andes

Bio

Raquel Bernal is an economist with a master’s degree from Universidad de los Andes and a PhD in economics from New York University. She is an expert in statistics, econometrics and impact evaluation, which she has applied specifically to the fields of education, social policy, gender and labor economics. At present, Bernal is the Rector at Universidad de los Andes, where she has worked since 2006 as faculty in the economics department, as Vice-President for Academic Affairs (2019-2022), and member of the Universidad de los Andes Board of Trustees. Prior to this, she worked as an assistant professor in the economics department at Northwestern University in the US.

"Founded in 1948, Universidad de los Andes is Colombia’s first private, independent university."
Colombia’s first private university, Universidad de los Andes, has become a leader in higher education in Latin America, providing high-quality education to its students.
How has Universidad de los Andes establish itself as a leader in higher education in Colombia and the Latam region?

Founded in 1948, Universidad de los Andes is Colombia’s first private, independent university. Inspired by the liberal arts education model of the US, we were established with a mission to transform the country and remain independent of political parties, economic groups, or religious organizations. Our founders envisioned our institution not just as an education project, but one of transformation of our country. Universidad de los Andes does not just educate future lawyers or doctors, but rather citizens who are empowered to make a positive impact on society. With a student body of 14,000 undergraduate and 4,000 graduate students, we pride ourselves on having a highly qualified faculty. In fact, of our 750 faculty members, 76% hold PhD degrees, a significantly higher percentage than the national average of 14% for academics in Colombia. We are committed to hiring the best faculty possible and strive to remain at the forefront of academic innovations. We introduced the semester system and the academic credit system in Colombia and are now exploring the latest advances of the 21st century, such as online education. Thanks to our exceptional faculty, we are able to provide a high-quality education to our students. Additionally, we have a strong connection to the country and its needs, ensuring our students are best prepared for the economic and historic context at each moment in time, as well as the demands of the private sector.

Universidad de los Andes has partnerships with several institutions and companies. How does the university ensure students have access to a global network of resources, knowledge, and opportunities?

The university prioritizes international exposure and has established over 200 agreements with universities on nearly every continent, except Africa, to facilitate student mobility. Each semester, we send close to 400 students abroad for international exchanges, and our highly qualified faculty members frequently lead projects at some of the world’s top universities. Our strong network enables us to recommend our students for prestigious programs, such as those offered by Harvard. Moreover, we have forged partnerships with international firms to provide our students with valuable internship opportunities during the summer months. As we aim to foster greater diversity on our campus, we are committed to sending more of our own students abroad while also welcoming more international students to Colombia. In this vein, we have made efforts to enhance our curriculum to include global competencies and skills, recognizing their importance in today’s interconnected world. The pandemic presented a unique opportunity for us to expand our global reach even further. Through virtual technology, we have hosted lectures from professors all over the world, providing our students with access to a broader range of perspectives and expertise.

Can you highlight some successful projects and companies that have emerged from Universidad de los Andes?

Our students enjoy unparalleled success in their professional endeavors, with the highest employment rate and wages in the country. An impressive 82% of our graduate’s secure employment shortly after graduating, with the remaining students opting to pursue graduate studies. Furthermore, our graduates’ salaries grow at a notably faster rate compared to their peers from other universities. Our university has also produced a remarkable number of entrepreneurs in recent years, with six out of every 10 start-ups in the country founded by our graduates. Additionally, seven out of the 11 soon-to-be unicorns in Colombia are led by individuals from our institution. The younger generation has different aspirations and is not necessarily interested in working for a multinational corporation for decades. Hence, we strive to equip our students with the skills and abilities necessary to pursue entrepreneurship. Many of our graduates have gone on to establish successful companies such as Rappi, the largest on-demand delivery platform in Latin America; Bodytech, the largest sports gym in the country; and a popular real estate application, among others.

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