University-industry relations in Bolivia: implications for university transformations in Latin America

Higher Education

This article examines the implications of how academics respond to the debate on the production of knowledge and its transfer to the productive sector, for the transformation of Latin American universities. The empirical analysis is based on a survey of 349 lecturers from Bolivian public universities, which inquired into aspects of university?industry relations (UIR). Although the results indicate that lecturers are in favour of relations with firms, there are several barriers to such relationships, such as lack of institutional support, generally unfavourable atmosphere in universities, and an industrial structure comprising few firms in knowledge-intensive sectors and firms with low absorptive capacity. In the context of Bolivia, unlike what occurs in developed countries, UIR have been configured around scientifically unimportant activities?technological support and internship schemes to place students in firms?which has had a negative effect on the consolidation of research, an academic activity, to which lecturers devote little of their time. The results of our study show the tensions that exist in efforts to change the university model; there is a reluctance to intensify the commercialisation of research results, and a lack of enthusiasm for introducing complex relationship mechanisms, such as the creation of hybrid structures.