Chapter 2. Key features of higher education in Mexico

This chapter presents an overview of the main features of the higher education system in Mexico and the wider context in which it operates. It starts by examining very briefly the economic, social and governance arrangements in Mexico that influence the development and performance of the higher education system. It then provides a concise overview of the recent trends in participation in higher education; the institutional landscape; funding arrangements; human resources and staffing in higher education; types of study programmes, data on enrolment and graduation, and evidence of the trajectories of higher education graduates in work and education.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

2.1. The context for higher education in Mexico

2.1.1. Mexico’s social and economic conditions: a challenging foundation for higher education

Mexico has an economy marked by comparatively low productivity, the growth of which has been particularly sluggish, and disparities in growth across regions

Mexico has the seventh largest gross domestic product (GDP) of OECD member countries, but the lowest GDP per capita (in purchasing power parity), at 44% of the OECD average (OECD, 2018[1]). Mexico’s GDP per capita is higher than that in all the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), with the exception of Russia.

Since 2000, GDP per capita has grown by 2.2% a year on average. Growth has been low compared to other OECD economies, due primarily to low productivity and low productivity growth (OECD, 2018[2]). Productivity, as measured by GDP per hour worked, is lower in Mexico than in any other OECD country. Mexican workers work more hours per head of population (labour utilisation) than on average in OECD countries.

The level of GDP varies widely between states, and growth disparities between Mexican states are increasing (Figure 2.1). Six states accounted for almost 50% of the national GDP in 2016: Mexico City (16.9%), the State of Mexico (8.9%), Nuevo León (7.3%), Jalisco (7.1%), Veracruz (4.7%), and Guanajuato (4.2%) (OECD, 2018[3]). The North and Centre of the country are characterised by a comparatively productive and modern economy, and economic disparities in southern states, with the lower-productivity traditional economic structures, have increased (OECD, 2017[4]). Many Mexicans have not experienced improvement in living conditions in the last decade.

Figure 2.1. GDP growth across Mexican states
picture

Source: (OECD, 2017[4]), OECD Economic Surveys: Mexico 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-mex-2017-en.

Employment in Mexico is concentrated in small firms that spend little on R&D, and many of the nation’s jobs - 4 in 10 - are in the agricultural and industrial sectors.

The proportion of employment in the main fields of economic activity has remained stable over the last decade (OECD, 2018[5]). Services are the primary source of employment, accounting for 61.4% of employment in 2017. This is one percentage point lower than in 2009. Industry accounted for 25.6% of employment, compared to 23.9% in 2009. Agriculture accounted for 13.0% of employment in 2017, compared to 13.7% in 2009.

Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Nuevo Leon, Jalisco, Veracruz and Guanajuato are the largest contributors to GDP in the services sector (OECD, 2018[3]). The states with the highest contribution to GDP in the agriculture sector – all located along the Pacific Coast - are Jalisco (11.3%), Michoacán (9.4%) and Sinaloa (7.7%). The highest contributors to GDP in the industrial sector are Nuevo León (8.5%), along the border with the United States, and the State of Mexico (8.1%), where most of the textile, pharmaceutical, automotive and metalworking industries are located.

The vast majority of business entities (unidades económicas) in Mexico employ 10 or fewer employees: 95.4% of business entities in Mexico are classified as micro businesses (INEGI, 2015[6]). Large businesses (251 or more employees) account for only 0.2% of all business entities, followed by medium-sized businesses at 0.8% and small businesses at 3.6% of the total.

The indicator Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Experimental Development (GERD) captures all spending on R&D carried out within an economy in a year. Among OECD countries, Mexico had the third lowest level of GERD as a percentage of GDP (0.49%) in 2017, behind Chile (0.26%) and Romania (0.44%) (OECD, 2018[7]). Data from the Network for Science and Technology Indicators (RICYT) indicate that Mexico spends more on R&D as a percentage of GDP than most of its Latin American peers, behind only Argentina and Brazil (RICYT, 2018[8]). Over two-thirds of GERD financing comes from the public sector and about one-fifth from the private sector.

In 2016, the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT) and public education were the sectors which contributed the most to GERD spending, contributing 50% and 25% respectively (CONACyT, 2016[9]). CONACyT is a decentralised federal governmental body created in 1970 that works to promote and develop science and technology in Mexico, with official responsibility for developing national science and technology policy (CONACyT, 2014[10]). Among its many functions, CONACyT provides scholarships to graduate students, evaluates and accredits graduate programmes, acknowledges and supports researchers, financially supports companies on science and technology projects, and operates 27 public research centres.

Labour force participation is low, and many who are employed hold informal jobs

The labour force participation rate (63.4%) in Mexico is the second lowest across OECD, and the employment rate (61.1%) and unemployment rate (3.6%) are below the OECD averages (Table 2.1). Moreover, 27.2% of the employed population works in the informal sector and informal employment accounts for 56.8% of the employed population (INEGI, 2018[11]).1 In addition, 31.5% of those employed were self-employed in 2017 (OECD, 2018[12]).

Table 2.1. Key labour market outcome indicators in Mexico and OECD countries, 2017

Indicator

Mexico

OECD

Trend (2006-2017) in Mexico

Labour force participation rate (15-64 year-olds)

63.4%

72.1%

Increase

Employment rate (15-64 year-olds)

61.1%

67.8%

Stable

Unemployment rate (15-64 year-olds)

3.6%

5.9%

Slight decrease

Youth Unemployment (15-24-year-olds)

6.7%

10.9%

Slight decrease

Youth not in education, employment or training (20-24-year-olds) (2016)

24.9%

16.2%

Slight decrease

Labour force participation rate of women (15-64 year-olds)

46.7%

64%

Increase

Gender wage gap (2016)

16.5%

13.9%

Stable

Employment of disadvantaged groups (below prime-age men)

40%

25%

Slight decrease

Source: (OECD, 2018[13]) OECD Employment and Labour Market Statistics.

Automation and new technologies will shape growth in employment

Predicting a country’s mid-to-long term demand for skills can be difficult, due in part to the impact of automation and new technologies (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018[14]). OECD analyses for countries that participate in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, PIAAC, estimate that 14% of jobs are highly automatable, while another 32% of jobs may undergo a significant change of skill requirements to the automation of some tasks. Routine jobs with low skill requirements are at highest risk of automation. While data for Mexico is limited, one study suggests that in 2030, after accounting for automation, the largest growth in jobs will occur in those occupations that require customer interaction (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017[15]).2

Demographic change – lower fertility and increased life expectancy – will lead to an older population, and declining school-age cohorts

Mexico has the tenth highest population in the world, with over 129 million inhabitants in 2017 (United Nations, 2017[16]). The population has grown fivefold since 1950. Mexico’s annual population growth rate has decreased from about 3% in between the 1960s and 1980s to 1.24% in 2017, and is expected to decrease further in the future. The population is expected to reach 164 million by 2050.

Mexico has a young population and is in the process of a demographic transition. About 26.7% of the Mexican population is younger than 15 years old and 6.9% is 65 or older. The median age in 2015 was 27.5 years, and is expected to increase to 40.8 years by 2050, due to a combination of a sharp decline in the number of live births per woman (from 2.29 in 2010-2015 to 1.72 in 2045-2050) and increasing life expectancy (76.5 years at birth in 2010-2015 and 82.6 years at birth in 2045-2050). The population aged 0-14 is forecast to decrease by about 20% between 2015 and 2050, leading to a decline in cohorts of schooling age.

Migration outflows exceed inflows

According to the latest Mexican census data, less than 1% of the population in Mexico was born abroad in 2015 (INEGI, 2016[17]). Although the stock of foreign-born population doubled between 2000 and 2016, Mexico remains primarily an emigration and transit country (OECD, 2018[18]). While about 73% of the foreign-born population in 2016 was born in the United States – many of them descendants of Mexican emigrants – growth has been due primarily to inflows from other Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as Spain, Canada and China. In 2017, it is estimated that about 11.8 million Mexicans, or almost 10% of the population of Mexico, lived abroad, 97% of them in the United States (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, 2018[19]).

2.1.2. Government and politics

Republican foundations are strong, and strong multi-party competition has emerged

Mexico is a constitutional and presidential republic composed of an executive (president), a legislature (the Congress of the Union), and a judicial branch (the Supreme Court of Justice) at the federal level. The Congress of the Union is bicameral, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Mexico is a federal state in which governing power is shared between the federal government and the 32 federal entities (henceforth referred to as states), as well as with municipal governments. The level of centralisation and devolution of power varies widely by policy area and issue.

During the last seven decades of the 20th century, a single party (including its prior incarnations), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), held power over the government of Mexico. In the 1980s and 1990s a variety of electoral reforms were implemented to open up the Mexican political landscape (World Bank, 2007[20]). In 2000, the National Action Party (PAN) won the presidential election, and electoral competition within a multi-party system was firmly established as the norm in Mexico (Edmonds-Poli and Shirk, 2011[21]). The 2018 election cycle ushered in a significant change in the political make-up of the Mexican Congress and government. Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the election, the first left of centre candidate to do so since Lázaro Cardénas in 1934 (INE, 2018[22]). López Obrador ran as a candidate for the electoral coalition, “Together We Will Make History”, established between Morena, López Obrador’s party, the Labour Party (PT), and the Social Encounter Party (PES). The alliance also won a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Transparency, the rule of law, and violence are key challenges in public affairs

Mexico ranked 66th in the world on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index in 2017 (The EIU, 2018[23]). It ranks 135 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and 103 out of 178 on Varieties of Democracy’s Civil Society Participation Index (Transparency International, 2018[24]; Varieties of Democracy Institute, 2018[25]). Worldwide, 66 journalists were killed in 2017, nine of them in Mexico (CPJ, 2018[26]). As of 2017, 59 journalists were missing worldwide, 14 of them (24%) in Mexico.

In 2017, 25 316 intentional homicides were committed in Mexico, the highest on record, (compared to 10 253 in 2007), and, at the time of writing, a record number of intentional homicides (2 603) had been committed in 2018 (Secretaría de Gobernación, 2018[27]; Secretaría de Gobernación, 2018[28]). Among countries reporting homicide data in 2016, Mexico had the highest rate of intentional homicides in the OECD, and the 13th highest in the world. The social and economic implications of violence are widely felt, and extend to higher education. Students enrolled in higher education institutions have experienced violence, and for some students and families concerns about violence now influence decisions about where to study.

2.1.3. School education

Enrolment and attainment in schooling have increased, but the skills of secondary students are limited, many young people do not complete upper secondary education.

Enrolment in early childhood education and primary education among children aged three to five years old increased by 19 percentage points between 2005 and 2016 (OECD, 2018[29]). The enrolment rate for four-year-olds, at 91%, was higher in 2016 than the OECD average (88%).

In Mexico, 82% of 15-year-olds, 72% of 16-year-olds and 57% of 17-year-olds are enrolled in secondary, compared to 97%, 95% and 90% respectively on average among OECD member countries (Figure 2.2). Upper secondary graduation rates - the estimated percentage of an age group that will complete upper secondary education, based on current patterns of graduation - for those younger than 25 years increased from 39% in 2005 to 57% in 2016 in Mexico, though this remains lower than the OECD average of 81%.

Figure 2.2. Secondary enrolment rates by age and upper secondary first-time graduation rates in Mexico
picture

Note: Panel A: Students enrolled in full-time and part-time programmes in both public and private institutions. Panel B: Sum of age-specific first-time graduation rates for population younger than 25 years of age.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]), Education at a Glance 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

Between 2007 and 2017, the share of 25-34 year-olds who had not completed an upper secondary education fell by 13 percentage points (OECD, 2018[29]). However, the share of those in this age range in 2017 without a completed upper secondary education stood at 52%, as compared to 15% on average in the OECD.

Performance on PISA in Mexico is low. Results from PISA 2015 indicate that Mexico performs well below the OECD average in each domain: science (416 score points versus 496), reading (423 score points versus 493) and mathematics (408 score points versus 490) (OECD, 2016[30]). Less than one percent of Mexican students are top performers in each of the three domains.

2.2. Higher education in Mexico

2.2.1. Expanding participation in Mexican higher education

Higher education enrolment and attainment have greatly expanded

Enrolment in higher education has grown from roughly thirty thousand students enrolled in 1950 to over 4.5 million students enrolled during the 2017-2018 academic year (Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3. Enrolment in tertiary education in Mexico
picture

Note: Years 1950-1999 do not include normal education.

Source: Years 1950-1999: Adapated from (Martínes Rizo, 2000[31]), La ANUIES y la Educación Superior Mexicana 1950-2000, http://publicaciones.anuies.mx/pdfs/revista/Revista116_S3A1ES.pdf. / Years 2000-2017: Adapted from (ANUIES, 2018[32]), Visión y acción 2030.

Tertiary and upper secondary attainment rates are higher among younger populations than older populations in Mexico (Figure 2.4) and between 2007 and 2017 tertiary attainment among 25-34 year-olds rose from 16% to 23% (OECD, 2018[29]). However, tertiary attainment remains below the OECD average of 44%.

Figure 2.4. Mexican educational attainment by age cohort, 2017
picture

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]), Education at a Glance 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

2.2.2. The Landscape of higher education institutions

Public authorities have created higher education institutions organised into many subsystems, the missions and profiles of which overlap

According to official statistics from Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), the National Higher Education System in Mexico served 4 430 248 students during the 2016-2017 academic year (SEP, 2018[33]). Mexico has a complex system of higher education, organised into subsystems, which in 2017 included 3 762 public and private higher education institutions providing recognised programmes, offering 37 953 programmes across 6 121 campuses (Table 2.2). Private institutions of higher education may offer programmes that are recognised by SEP, and are therefore part of the National System of Higher Education. Some programmes in private institutions are not recognised by the federal government, and therefore remain outside the National System of Higher Education. The Subsecretariat of Higher Education (Subsecretaría de Educación Superior) categorises Mexican public higher education system into 13 subsystems, (Table 2.2) each with a distinctive context, history and governance arrangement.

Table 2.2 The Higher Education System in Mexico

 

Enrolment

Institutions

Campuses

Programmes

Higher education Subsystem

Number of students

% total

Under-graduate

Post- graduate

Annual growth1

Total

% total

Total

% total

Total

% total

State Public Universities

1 152 317

26.0%

95.3%

4.7%

3.4%

34

0.9%

929

15.2%

5 480

14.4%

Federal public universities

584 692

13.2%

91.4%

8.6%

3.9%

9

2.5%

229

3.7%

1 491

3.9%

Federal Institutes of Technology

340 800

7.7%

98.8%

1.2%

3.1%

128

3.4%

135

2.2%

1 658

4.4%

Decentralised Institutes of Technology

241 035

5.4%

99.6%

0.4%

12.5%

134

3.6%

141

2.3%

1 263

3.3%

Technological Universities

241 688

5.5%

100.0%

0.0%

12.6%

113

3.0%

131

2.1%

1 685

4.4%

Polytechnic Universities

92 785

2.1%

98.8%

1.2%

42.5%

61

1.6%

61

1.0%

378

1.0%

Teacher education institutions (public)

83 573

1.9%

96.3%

3.7%

-2.5%

276

7.3%

306

5.0%

864

2.3%

State public Universities with Solidarity Support

68 089

1.5%

98.2%

1.8%

8.3%

22

0.6%

100

1.6%

514

1.4%

Intercultural Universities

14 784

0.3%

99.5%

0.5%

14%

11

0.3%

31

0.5%

129

0.3%

Public research centres

6 996

0.2%

2.2%

97.8%

4%

37

1.0%

65

1.1%

217

0.6%

Other public higher education institutions

116 813

2.6%

85.3%

14.7%

2.3%

160

4.3%

305

5.0%

1 325

3.5%

Private universities

1 472 197

33.2%

86.8%

13.2%

4.5%

2 517

66.9%

3 496

57.0%

22 537

59.4%

Teacher education institutions (private)

14 479

0.3%

95.1%

4.9%

-

176

4.7%

200

3.3%

412

1.1%

Note: 1Average annual growth since 2000 (2001 for Intercultural Universities and 2002 for Polytechnic Universities)

Source: OECD compilation based on (SEP, 2018[33]) Education system of the United States of Mexico. Key Figures 2016-2017.

The federal university subsystem consists of nine institutions, which includes the four autonomous federal universities, the oldest of which is the National Autonomous University of Mexico (SEP, 2018[34]). Four of the nine universities are located in Mexico City, though they reach a majority of Mexican states through their networks of campuses, schools and other education units (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Three of these four universities are the most competitive in all of Mexico in terms of admissions (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). The federal universities, along with CONACYT, conduct most of the scientific research in Mexico (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]).

The history of federal higher education institutions in Mexico began with the founding of the National University of Mexico (UNM) in 1910, forty-three years after its predecessor, the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was closed due to its affiliation to the Catholic Church (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). In 1929, UNM achieved autonomy through the Organic Law of 1929 and became what is known today as the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) (Ordorika, 2003[37]).

In 1936, the National Polytechnic Institute, a technical education institution, was founded to support the industrialization of Mexico and to offer alternative higher education options within the country, particularly to those of disadvantaged backgrounds (IPN, 2017[38]).

By 1950, in addition to the two federal higher education institutions (HEIs), Mexico’s system of higher education included 3 institutes of technology, 12 state universities, and 6 private universities (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). The 1950s and 1960s saw a large expansion of the system, during which time 17 state universities opened in state capitals. At the same time, regional institutes of technology were created, “often in areas with growing demand for industrial and agricultural production” (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]).

In the 1970s, demand for higher education in the Mexico City region increased, and the Autonomous Metropolitan University was created in 1978 (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Overall enrolment in higher education had increased 16-fold by the end of the decade, as compared to enrolment in 1950, and most students were enrolled in institutions outside of Mexico City (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]).

The first institutes of technology, founded to support industrialization, date back to the 1940s (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). Institutions in this subsystem remained under federal control until the 1990s, when new decentralised institutes of technology were created, and this subsystem has experienced much growth in the last two decades. As of 2017, there were 134 decentralised Institutes of Technology and 128 federal Institutes of Technology (see Table 2.2), the coordination of which was the responsibility of the Tecnológico Nacional de México.

The first Polytechnic University, the Polytechnic University of San Luis Potosí, opened in 2001, and this system initially offered engineering degree programmes that aligned with local technological needs and that included internships (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). Between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017, the Polytechnic Universities subsystem experienced the largest percent growth of any subsystem, from roughly 12 000 to 80 000 students in a decade (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]).

The first Technological Universities were opened in 1991, with a focus on the competencies required by the productive sector (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Initially, Technological Universities offered only short-cycle ISCED 5 degrees (known as Técnico Superior Universitario, TSU) focused on technical skills and practical experience; in 2009 they began offering bachelor’s degrees to permit their students to continue their studies to that level. In 2016-2017, about one third of enrolled students were in bachelor’s programmes, while the other two-thirds of students were enrolled in short-cycle programmes. In total, nine out of ten students enrolled in short-cycle programmes were enrolled in a Technological University. In 2016-2017 the subsystem was comprised of 54 institutions in 23 states.

Most State Public Universities began as religious or civil colleges in the 19th century, and the first institution to be reorganised into a State Public University - by state government decree - was the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in 1917 (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Of the 34 State Public Universities that exist today, 33 are autonomous, and every state has at least one State Public University. All offer bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees, 23 offer upper secondary degrees (bachillerato, which is awarded upon successful completion of a preparatoria programme) and some offer short-cycle degrees. State Public Universities have traditionally been the main providers of higher education in their respective states, enrolling 26% of all higher education students in 2016-217, the largest share of any subsystem in the public higher education system and almost twice the share of the next largest subsystem (federal public universities) (see Table 2.2). They have expanded and diversified greatly, increasing enrolment at the bachelor’s level by 47% and at the postgraduate level by 34% between 2007 and 2017, and they consist of 929 campuses and account for 5.2% of all distance education enrolment (see Table 2.5).

The first State Public University with Solidarity Support, today an autonomous university known as the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas, was created in 1944 (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Most State Public Universities with Solidarity Support were created over the last two decades, initially to absorb unmet demand at State Public Universities (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). A key difference between State Public Universities and State Public Universities with Solidarity Support is budgetary: federal “ordinary” subsidies for State Public Universities pay for both personnel and operational expenses, while for State Public Universities with Solidarity Support only the latter is covered (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). While state governments finance personnel costs, this funding arrangement also gives State Public Universities with Solidarity Support greater control over salaries and incentive programmes. There are 22 State Public Universities with Solidarity Support across ten states, and six of them offer only undergraduate studies while two offer only graduate studies. Between 2007 and 2017, enrolment in bachelor’s level programmes grew by 119% and enrolment in postgraduate programmes grew by only 12%. In 2016-2017, these universities accounted for 1.5% of all higher education enrolment.

Intercultural Universities were first established as such in 2004 in an effort to promote inclusion and to meet the higher education needs of indigenous persons (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]; SEP, 2001[39]). This subsystem grew from five to 11 institutions and from over 3 000 to almost 15 000 students between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017, though they contributed only 1% to the growth in total public enrolment during the same period (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). In 2016-2017, Intercultural Universities enrolled only 0.3% of all higher education students. Intercultural Universities are discussed in further detail in Chapter 5.

Public normal schools (escuelas normales públicas) date to the 19th century, and have a history as socially and politically engaged institutions, a characteristic that, in important ways, remains to this day (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]; Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). The history of the normal schools is tightly bound up with social and political movements committed to the expansion of universal education in Mexico, with the establishment of normal schools in the late 19th and 20th centuries playing an essential role in bringing formal education to all regions of the country. Until 1988 with the creation of the National Pedagogical University, normal schools were solely responsible for the initial training of basic education school teachers in Mexico; normal schools today offer programmes in pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education, as well as in specialised educational areas such as arts, intercultural bilingual primary and special education (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). In 1984, upper secondary completion became a requirement for entry into normal schools, and normal school initial training programmes were elevated to the bachelor’s level (OECD, 2004[40]). In 2005, normal schools were incorporated into the secretariat of higher education (Mendoza Rojas, 2018[35]). Between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017, enrolment in normal public schools dropped - the only subsystem to do so - by 14%, down 14% in bachelor’s programmes and down 11% in postgraduate programmes. Normal schools account for 1.9% of total tertiary enrolment (see Table 2.2), and, along with Intercultural Universities, tend to serve some of the lowest-income students among those attending universities (Ordorika, Rodríguez Gómez and Lloyd, 2018[36]). Public normal schools are discussed in further detail in Chapter 6.

Other public institutions of higher education, a highly heterogeneous “subsystem”, include those instructions that do not fit into other subsystems. These include those that focus on particular areas, such library and archival studies, military, fine arts, justice and security and health, as well the Autonomous University of the City of Mexico (SEP, 2018[41]). This subsystem enrols 2.6% of all higher education students and accounts for 8.8% of all distance education enrolment, the second highest share among public institutions after federal universities (see Table 2.2 and Table 2.5).

Private higher education institutions are diverse, some offering selective and prestigious programmes, and others low cost, low status programmes

A majority (72%) of Mexican higher education institutions are private (see Table 2.2). Many are quite small, and, in total, private institutions accounted for about 34% of total enrolment in 2017-2018 (Figure 2.5). In recent years, the percentage of higher education students enrolled in private higher education institutions has increased modestly, and the private sector has absorbed an increasingly larger share of distance enrolments, with about 65% of students in distance education enrolled in private HEIs in 2017-2018. Private HEIs vary widely in prestige and cost, ranging from high-status institutions such as the Tecnológico de Monterrey to the low-status “duckling” (patito) institutions. Elsewhere we take up an analysis of equity in higher education (Chapter 6).

Figure 2.5. Private sector enrolment in Mexican higher education, 2001-2018
picture

Note: 2001 refers to school year 2000-2001, 2002 refers to school year 2001-2002, 2003 refers to school year 2002-2003 and so forth.

Source: OECD calculations based on data from (ANUIES, 2018[32]), Visión y acción 2030.

Mexico’s higher education system focuses principally on bachelor-level education, and educates few students at either the doctoral and sub-bachelor degree levels.

The vast majority of enrolment in Mexican higher education, 88.1% in 2016, was in bachelor’s level programmes, with very few degrees awarded at either the sub-bachelor or doctoral levels or the (Table 2.3). Compared to its Latin American peers, Mexico has a higher share of enrolment in bachelor’s programmes than does Chile (63.3%), Colombia (63.2%) and Costa Rica (83.2%), while the share of enrolment in short-cycle tertiary education is lower in Mexico (4.1%) than in Chile (29.0%), Colombia (30.1%) and Costa Rica (10.8%).

Table 2.3. Enrolment by qualification level, 2016

Short-cycle tertiary education (%)

Bachelor's or equivalent level (%)

Master's or equivalent level (%)

Doctoral or equivalent level (%)

Chile

29.0

63.3

7.3

0.4

Mexico

4.1

88.1

6.8

0.9

United States

37.3

47.5

13.2

2.1

Brazil

0.0*

96.7

1.9

1.3

Colombia

30.1

63.2

6.4

0.2

Costa Rica

10.8

83.2

5.7

0.2

Note: *Enrolment in short-cycle tertiary education accounts for less than 0.05% of total tertiary enrolment.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]). Education at a Glance 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

Short-cycle programmes typically last two years and award associate technical degrees (técnico superior universitario) or associate professional degrees (professional asociado) (Table 2.4). Bachelor’s degrees are awarded by universities (licenciatura universitaria) or Institutes of Technology (licenciatura), whereas an education bachelor’s degree (licenciatura educación) is awarded by Teacher Education Colleges. Bachelor’s programmes typically last four to five years. At the master’s level, a specialisation degree (especialización) or a master’s degree (maestría) are available, with a length of up to a year or 2 years respectively. Doctoral degrees (doctorado) take three to five years to complete.

Table 2.4. Tertiary education qualification types

Name of the qualification

Length of programme

ISCED level

Associate technical degree (técnico superior universitario) or Associate professional (profesional asociado)

2 years

ISCED 5: Short-cycle programme

University bachelor’s degree (licenciatura universitaria) or

Institute of technology bachelor’s degree (licenciatura tecnológica)

4 to 5 years

ISCED 6: Bachelor’s programme

Teachers’ education bachelor’s degree (licenciatura educación normal)

4 to 5 years

ISCED 6: Bachelor’s programme

Master’s specialisation degree (especialización)

0.5 to 1 years

ISCED 7: Master’s programme

Master’s degree (maestría)

2 years

ISCED 7: Master’s programme

Doctoral degree (doctorado)

3 to 5 years

ISCED 8: Doctoral programme

Source: (SEP, 2018[33]) Education system of the United States of Mexico. Key Figures 2016-2017.

Most higher education programmes are delivered face-to-face, but higher education institutions have recently begun to offer more distance learning and blended learning programmes. This has been supported by government initiatives such as the creation of the Open and Distance Learning University in 2012 by the federal Under-secretariat Higher Education (Subsecretaría de Educación Superior) to help widen access to higher education. In 2016-2017, about a quarter of students in private HEIs and 10% of students in public HEIs undertook distance programmes. Moreover, most students who enrolled in distance learning programmes attended a private institution (56.9%), while most students who enrolled in face-to-face learning programmes attended a public institution (70.6%) (Table 2.5).

Table 2.5. Enrolment by detailed subsystem and modality, 2016-2017

Face-to-face

Distance

Bachelor’s

Postgraduate

Total

Percentage of all face-to-face enrolment (%)

Bachelor’s

Postgraduate

Total

Percentage of all distance enrolment

(%)

State Public Universities

1 065 363

52 572

1 117 935

29.7

32 231

2 151

34 382

5.2

State Public Universities with Solidarity Support

65 495

1 116

66 611

1.8

1 346

132

1 478

0.2

Intercultural Universities

11 678

73

11 751

0.3

3 033

-

3 033

0.5

Polytechnic Universities

91 277

1 052

92 329

2.5

357

99

456

0.1

Technological Universities

240 561

20

240 581

6.4

1 107

-

1 107

0.2

Decentralised Institutes of Technology

234 026

897

234 923

6.2

6 112

-

6 112

0.9

Federal Institutes of Technology

327 635

4 027

331 662

8.8

9 097

41

9 138

1.4

Federal public universities

368 168

45 211

413 379

11.0

166 239

5 074

171 313

25.7

Subtotal

2 404 203

104 968

2 509 171

66.7

219 522

7 497

227 019

34.0

Public Teacher Education Colleges (undergraduate)

80 478

-

80 478

2.1

-

-

-

-

Public Teacher Education Colleges (postgraduate)

-

1 356

1 356

0.0

-

1 739

1 739

0.3

Subtotal

80 478

1 356

81 834

2.2

-

1 739

1 739

0.3

Public research centres

152

6 679

6 831

0.2

-

165

165

0.0

Other public institutions

51 191

6 684

57 875

1.5

48 422

10 516

58 938

8.8

Subtotal

51 343

13 363

64 706

1.7

48 422

10 681

59 103

8.9

Total Public

2 536 024

119 687

2 655 711

70.6

267 944

19 917

287 861

43.1

Private Teacher Education Colleges (undergraduate)

13 763

-

13 763

0.4

-

-

-

-

Private Teacher Education Colleges (postgraduate)

-

485

485

0.0

-

231

231

0.0

Private universities

974 020

118 700

1 092 720

29.0

304 388

75 089

379 477

56.8

Total private

987 783

119 185

1 106 968

29.4

304 388

75 320

379 708

56.9

Total

3 523 807

238 872

3 762 679

100.0

572 332

95 237

667 569

100.0

Source: Adapted from (SEP, 2018[33]) Education system of the United States of Mexico. Key Figures 2016-2017.

2.2.3. Financing Higher Education: How are Higher Education Institutions Resourced?

Mexico invests a share of GDP in higher education near to the OECD average, and public spending has risen, though more slowly than enrolment growth

In 2015, Mexico spent 1.4% of its GDP on higher education institutions, as compared to 1.5% on average for all OECD member countries (OECD, 2018[29]). Mexico’s expenditure on tertiary educational institutions by government, as a percentage of GDP after transfers between government and private sectors, is equal to the OECD average (1.0%), while expenditure by the private sector (0.4%), as a percentage of GDP after transfers between government and private sectors, is slightly less than the OECD average (0.5%), and lower than that of Colombia (1.4%) and Chile (1.7%).3 Between 2005 and 2015, total expenditure on tertiary education in Mexico as a percentage of GDP increased from an indexed score of 85.0 to 104.8, where 2010 spending levels are set to 100. In the OECD, on average, this score increased from 90.5 in 2005 to 101.3 in 2015.

In 2015, expenditure per full-time equivalent student in tertiary educational institutions stood at USD 8 170 (at PPP), the second lowest among OECD countries and equivalent to 52% of the OECD average (OECD, 2018[29]).

Federal funding is not directly linked to enrolment. While federal spending on education and enrolment have generally increased between 2000 and 2017, growth in public enrolment (109%) has outpaced growth in spending (71%), leading to an 18% reduction in per student funding (ANUIES, 2018[32]).

The allocation of public funds to public higher education institutions is opaque, and does not follow a publicly stated methodology

In Mexico, each public university receives federal funding through a combination of core funding, so-call “federal contributions” and “agreements” (convenios). There is no single funding formula used for all public universities. As a result, expenditure per student varies widely across states and across regions. In the case of State Public Universities, in 2017 the university with the highest base funding subsidy per student had a subsidy over 3.5 times larger per student than the university with the lowest base funding subsidy per student, and the percent contribution to the federal/state split of the subsidy ranged from 44% to 90% (ANUIES, 2018[32]).

2.2.4. Human Resource in Higher Education

Many higher education institutions have wide responsibility for setting human resource policies.

Higher education institutions in Mexico have varying control over the terms and conditions of employment (OECD, 2008[42]). While non-autonomous higher education institutions in Mexico typically have limited control over human resources, private universities set human resource policies independent of government, and autonomous public universities have wide discretion with respect to the recruitment and appointment of staff, career structures and advancement, performance evaluation, and compensation. However, public institutions make hiring, promotion and performance pay decisions using public funds following approval of public authorities, indicating that corresponding funding is available.

In public higher education institutions, both full and part-time academic staff are eligible to be tenured, and the most important criterion in its award is often seniority, rather than research performance or ability and improvement in teaching (Maldonado-Maldonado, 2012[43]). Most private universities do not have a tenure system.

Due in part to institutionally-based career progression structures, there is low level of academic staff mobility among higher education institutions (OECD, 2008[42]). Institutional responsibility for human resource policies also leads to wide variation in compensation. One study found that the highest base salaries in the public sector can be almost 6.5 times larger than the lowest salaries, ranging from USD 356 to USD 2313 monthly, and this difference is even larger in private universities (Maldonado-Maldonado, 2012[43]).

Base salaries in public institutions are supplemented through merit-based and peer-review programmes such as the National System of Researchers (Sistema Nacional de Investigadores), as well as institutional and state level programmes, which can add between 15% and 75% to the base salary (Maldonado-Maldonado, 2012[43]). Other programmes such as PRODEP (Programa para el Desarrollo Profesional Docente, para el Tipo Superior) seek to improve the capabilities of full-time academic staff through scholarships and recognition (SEP, 2018[44]). Few institutions in the private sector offer these supplements (Maldonado-Maldonado, 2012[43]).

The educational attainment of academic staff has modestly risen in recent years, but few work on a full-time basis.

The educational attainment of academic staff has grown (Table 2.6). Approximately half of academic staff have a bachelor’s degree or specialisation as their highest level of educational attainment. However, the share of the academic staff with master’s degrees increased from 27.9% in 2010-2011 to 32.3% in 2016-2017, while the share of academics with doctorates increased from 9.0% to 12.0%.

Table 2.6. Share of academic staff by highest level of educational attainment, 2010-2011 to 2016-2017

%

Short-cycle (L)

Short-cycle (NL)

Bachelor's (L)

Bachelor's (NL)

Specialisation (L)

Specialisation (NL)

Master's (L)

Master's- (NL)

Doctorate (L)

Doctorate (NL)

2010-11

0.9

0.4

48.7

1.8

4.8

0.2

27.9

5.4

9.0

1.0

2011-12

1.1

0.4

50.0

1.2

4.8

0.2

28.0

3.7

9.8

0.8

2012-13

1.2

0.4

49.4

1.3

4.7

0.1

29.2

3.2

9.6

0.8

2013-14

1.1

0.3

48.2

1.2

4.4

0.1

30.2

3.3

10.5

0.7

2014-15

0.9

0.3

47.8

1.1

4.6

0.1

30.4

3.0

11.0

0.8

2015-16

1.1

0.3

47.0

1.3

4.4

0.1

31.5

2.7

11.1

0.6

2016-17

0.9

0.2

46.8

0.9

3.8

0.1

32.3

2.4

12.0

0.7

Note: In Mexico, a student can complete a higher education programme without fulfilling the additional requirements needed to be granted a professional license. L: License. NL: No License.

Source: OECD calculations based on Mexico Country Background Report.

In 2016-2017, over two-thirds of the nation’s academic staff (70.8%) worked on an hourly basis (i.e. casual staff), while full-time academic staff, those that are tenured, accounted for 23.0% of all positions (Table 2.7). While the size of the workforce has grown by about 26% between 2010-2011 and 2016-2017, the share of full-time staff has modestly decreased and the share of hourly staff has generally increased over this period.

Table 2.7. Share of higher education academic staff by level of time commitment, 2010-2011 to 2016-2017

Full-time (%)

3/4-time (%)

Half-time (%)

Hourly (%)

Total workforce (count)

2010-11

24.4

1.4

5.0

69.2

342 617

2011-12

24.1

1.6

5.6

68.6

368 755

2012-13

24.0

1.6

4.9

69.5

382 335

2013-14

23.6

1.7

4.8

70.0

379 267

2014-15

24.4

1.7

5.8

68.1

395 878

2015-16

22.4

1.3

5.0

71.3

423 941

2016-17

23.0

1.4

4.8

70.8

431 863

Source: OECD calculations based on Mexico Country Background Report.

2.2.5. Degrees and Study Programmes

Enrolments in Mexico led by business administration, social science and law, with engineering, manufacturing, and construction a second area focus, with comparatively few enrolments in arts and humanities

There are close to 38 000 tertiary programmes offered in Mexico (see Table 2.2). In 2016, business, administration, and law programmes had the highest enrolment (33.0%), while 25.3% of students were enrolled in engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes. The share of enrolment in business, administration, and law is substantially higher in Mexico than in OECD countries in total, broadly similar to higher education systems in the region, with an enrolment share lower than that of Colombia, but higher than that of Brazil. Programmes in arts and humanities (3.9%) have an especially modest enrolment in Mexico, broadly similar in magnitude to Latin American comparator systems, though far lower than is found in total across the OECD (13.5%).

Table 2.8. Tertiary education enrolment by field, 2016

%

Generic programmes and qualifications

Education

Arts and humanities

Social sciences, journalism and information

Business, administration and law

Natural sciences, mathematics and statistics

Information and Communication Technologies

Engineering, manufacturing and construction

Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary

Health and welfare

Services

Field unknown

Chile

0.1

11.2

4.2

4.5

21.5

2.0

3.7

20.1

2.2

22.0

8.6

0.0

Mexico

0.0

8.6

3.9

9.3

33.0

3.4

2.0

25.3

2.2

10.8

1.5

0.0

OECD total

0.1

7.6

13.5

9.7

23.2

6.1

3.2

13.5

1.4

14.6

4.7

2.4

Brazil

0.4

18.6

2.5

5.1

31.4

2.7

3.3

15.5

3.0

15.2

2.3

0.0

Colombia

0.0

7.9

4.4

8.5

38.7

1.8

5.8

20.8

2.1

7.4

2.7

0.0

Costa Rica

0.0

13.2

4.2

4.4

30.1

3.3

7.4

11.6

1.5

11.7

0.9

11.7

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]) Education at a Glace 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

2.2.6. Enrolment and Attainment

There is rising participation in higher education, with a student population that is young, and a level of tertiary attainment among young adults typical of the region

In Mexico higher education access is monitored using a gross enrolment ratio (cobertura), measured as total enrolment in bachelor’s and short-cycle Técnico Superior Universitario (TSU) programmes divided by the total population of 18-22 year-olds, the typical age for this level of education. Higher education coverage has increased steadily in the last 10 years (25.9% in 2007-2008), reaching 38.4% in 2017-2018 (ANUIES, 2018[32]).

The population enrolled in tertiary education is comparatively young, with students aged 25 and older accounting for only 23.2% of enrolment, a much lower share than in Chile, Brazil and Colombia (Table 2.9). Conversely, younger adults ages 18 and 19 make up about one-quarter of higher education students in Mexico, a larger share than in Chile, Brazil, or Colombia.

Table 2.9. Enrolment by age in tertiary education, 2016

%

17 years

18 years

19 years

20-24 years

25 and over

Chile

0.0

6.4

10.5

47.4

35.6

Mexico

1.6

10.7

13.9

50.6

23.2

Brazil

2.0

5.9

7.9

37.5

46.7

Colombia

4.9

8.3

9.7

38.9

36.5

Note: Includes students in full-time and part-time programmes.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]) Education at a Glance 2018.

In 2017, 22.6% of 25-34 year-olds in Mexico had completed some kind of tertiary education (Table 2.10). This is approximately half the OECD average (44.1%), and is lower than in Chile (29.9%), Colombia (28.1%) and Costa Rica (28.0%), but higher than in Brazil (16.6%) and Argentina (18.4%). Attainment of short-cycle tertiary qualifications is lower in Mexico (0.6%) than on average across the OECD (7.3%) and lower than in Latin American countries reporting these data. The share of the population with master’s or equivalent or higher in Mexico is also much lower than the OECD average.

Table 2.10. Share of population by educational attainment, 25-34 year-olds, 2017

Tertiary education

Short-cycle tertiary education

Bachelor’s or equivalent education

Master’s or equivalent education

Doctoral or equivalent education

Chile*

29.9

8.7

20.0

(w) 1.2

x

Mexico

22.6

0.6

20.7

1.2

0.0

OECD average

44.1

7.3

23.2

14.5

0.8

Argentina

18.4

x

(w) 18.4

x

x

Brazil*

16.6

x

(w) 16.6

x

x

Colombia

28.1

x

(w) 28.1

x

x

Costa Rica

28.0

8.7

17.8

(w) 1.5

x

Note: *Year of reference is 2015.

x: Data included in another category.

w: Includes data from another category.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]) Education at a Glance 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

International mobility among students is low, but increasing

The percentage of Mexican nationals who are tertiary students enrolled abroad is about 1%, lower than most OECD countries and below the OECD average of 2% (OECD, 2018[29]). In 2016, approximately 32 000 Mexican nationals were tertiary students in OECD member countries, about one-half of whom study in the United States. The number of foreign nationals studying for higher education degrees in Mexico is small, as a percentage of total enrolments rounding to zero.

Internationally mobile students are those who left their country of origin and moved to another country for the purpose of study. Between 2013 and 2016, the Mexican higher education system experienced growth in the number of incoming mobile students that was higher than the growth in the number of national students enrolled in other OECD and partner countries (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6. Change in the outflow compared to the inflow of mobile students (2013 to 2016)
Indices of change of inward and outward mobility (2013=100)
picture

Note: Excludes incoming mobile students in short-cycle tertiary education for Italy and Spain. The black diagonal line represents where the inward mobility change equals the outward mobility change.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]), Education at a Glance 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-36-en.

2.2.7. Post-education outcomes

Labour market outcomes for young higher education graduates (ages 25-34) are below the OECD average, and graduates often work in occupations categorised by national authorities as not requiring a higher education degree

Labour market outcomes for 25-34 year-old higher education graduates in Mexico are below than the OECD average (Figure 2.7). The employment rate of young higher education graduates in 2017 was 80.7%, below the OECD average of 84.1%. The inactivity rate of young higher education graduates was 14.5%, above the OECD average of 10.7% (OECD, 2018[29]). Unemployment was 5.7%, which is similar to the OECD average of 5.8%. As Mexico has no unemployment benefits and few active labour market policies in place, registered unemployment is not common.

Figure 2.7. Labour market outcomes for young higher education graduates (25-34 year-olds), 2017
picture

Note: Countries are ranked in descending order for the employment rates of young higher education graduates.

Source: (OECD, 2018[29]), Education at a Glance 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2018-en.

As in other OECD countries, tertiary graduates have an earning advantage compared to those completing upper or lower secondary education (Figure 2.8). The earning advantage of tertiary education graduates vis-à-vis upper secondary graduates in Mexico is substantially larger than the OECD average, though lower than in other economies in Latin America, including Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil.

Figure 2.8. Relative earnings of adults, by educational attainment (2015)
25-64 year-olds with income from employment; upper secondary education = 100
picture

Note: Tertiary education includes short-cycle tertiary, bachelor's, master's, doctoral or equivalent degrees.

*For adults with upper secondary education, relative earnings are 100 and earnings (dis)advantage is 0.

1. Year of reference differs from 2015. Refer to the source table for details.

2. Earnings net of income tax.

3. Index 100 refers to the combined ISCED levels 3 and 4 of the educational attainment levels in the ISCED 2011 classification.

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the relative earnings of 25-64 year-olds with tertiary education.

Source: (OECD, 2017[45]), Education at a Glance 2017, https://doi.org/10.1787/eag-2017-en.

Higher education graduates entering the labour market are often employed informally (i.e. without social security or pension coverage), or enter occupations that labour market officials in Mexico classify as not requiring a higher education. In 2017, just over one-quarter (27%) of young higher education graduates were informally employed, and 46% were employed in occupations classified as not requiring a higher education degree (INEGI, 2017[46]). The OECD Report Higher Education in Mexico: Labour Market Relevance and Outcomes presents a detailed analysis of labour market outcomes for higher education graduates in Mexico - and how government policies and institutional practices can improve these outcomes (OECD, 2019[47]).

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Notes

← 1. INEGI defines employment in the informal sector (ocupación en el sector informal) as the percentage of those employed who work in economic units that are not registered. INEGI defines informal employment (informalidad laboral) as the percentage of those employed who lack basic social security protection through their job or who work in unregistered economic units.

← 2. For a more detailed discussion on labour market relevance and outcomes of higher education, see the OECD Report (2019) Higher Education in Mexico: Labour Market Relevance and Outcomes (OECD, 2019[47]).

← 3. The year of reference for Chile and Colombia is 2016.

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