Emilia Ahvenjärvi has been working as a specialist in education and science at Finland’s Embassy in Buenos Aires since October 2018. She has a long background in the Spanish-speaking world and extensive experience in international relations in the field of higher education and in sharing Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovations in Latin America. The Team Finland Knowledge work in Latin America focuses on making higher education and research known reciprocally and on strengthening cooperation.
Argentina – leader in higher education and research in Spanish-speaking Latin America
Argentina is a large country with a surface area roughly one half of that of the EU. Argentina extends from the tropics all the way to South America’s Antarctic tip. It is rich in natural resources and most of its 44 million inhabitants are of European descent, originating primarily from Spain and Italy, but also from Germany and Eastern Europe as well as from other Latin American countries. Today, education-based migration is one of the strongest migratory flows into Argentina, with people arriving from Latin American countries where there is no public higher education system free of charge the way there is in Argentina. Around 80,000 foreign students study in Argentina every year. The capital and its namesake, the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), in particular, are the most attractive higher education institutions in Latin America. Argentina's scientific system is one of the biggest in the world (OECD STI Outlook 2016), but it has long been relatively closed and relies on national funding.
With Argentina assuming the G20 Presidency in 2018 and adopting a more positive foreign policy towards new trade relations, the country has transitioned into a new era of opening up over the past four years. There are hopes that the new government will pursue the same path of opening up.
Finland, Cono Sur and other Spanish-speaking Latin America – sustainable development and sharing knowledge, expertise and educational innovations
Argentina, Uruguay and Chile form a geographical region in South America known as the Southern Cone (Cono Sur). By both economic and social standards, these countries are among the most advanced in Latin America. Finland's bioeconomy expertise is recognised in the Southern Cone, and advances in the bioeconomy sector create opportunities for cooperation for Finnish higher education institutions and research and innovation activities. Uruguay is currently developing its vocational education and training system, which also involves the use Finnish skills and competences.
Several Finnish higher education institutions have set up partnerships with Chilean ones, and the bilateral research funding programmes of Conicyt and the Academy of Finland have paved the way for research cooperation. Chile is a world-class expert in training in mining and, more recently, also in developing renewable energies.
Students in Latin America are increasingly more interested in applying to study abroad and have the language skills to do so. Thanks to the solid reputation of the Finnish education system and admiration for the Nordic welfare state system, Finland is among the top places to which students want to apply. The existing scholarships in Latin America for international studies aim at developing national expertise and achieving sustainable development goals in their own country.
The Finnish education system is renowned throughout Latin America. In particular, Finnish teacher education is in high esteem and the Latin American countries intend to tailor it to the local context. Colombia and Mexico, in particular, have expressed their interest at state level in working together with Finland to develop the education sector. Many opportunities for Finnish actors will arise once the conditions for a long-term partnership are met.