Hazel Price, 2 November 2015
Greetings from Latin America!
I am currently undertaking fieldwork in Latin America for my research. In order to do this, I applied for (and was lucky enough to be awarded) a Santander travel award (http://www.santander.co.uk/uk/santander-universities/scholarships-grants-awards) to cover the main costs of this trip. This trip was also designed to act as a scoping visit prior to fully developing my proposal and undertaking more major fieldwork for my PhD. This is not only the first fieldwork visit of my doctoral research but also it is also my first ever trip to Latin America, so I feel like I have a lot to learn!
So far I have spent two weeks learning some Spanish in Buenos Aires, which was a useful but somewhat frustrating experience. I think that language is my biggest issue in terms of the practicalities of research at the moment. It is important to me to try to get to a stage where I can conduct interviews, utilise resources, and disseminate findings in Spanish. If I am not able to do this I think it will limit the legitimacy and depth of my research. It is clearly a real shame if I choose who to interview on the basis of whether they are happy to be interviewed in English. And whilst my progress is much slower than I would like, prior to starting my PhD I did not speak any Spanish at all, so being even a little fluent is quite a tall order. I have definitely made some progress, but I feel like I have barely scratched the surface!
I have also conducted interviews in Argentina and Uruguay with professionals and academics involved with processes of quality assurance in Higher Education. I will use the information from these interviews to feed into my upgrade document and once analysed will be part of my final thesis.
Finally I had a very rich experience attending a two day High Level Meeting of Ministers on the recognition of qualifications in Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was held in Brasilia and was convened by UNESCO and the Brazilian Ministry of Education. It provided a great opportunity to hear about the concerns and trends in Higher Education in the region, and the numerous different organisations and networks working in this field. It was apparent that quality assurance is perceived as key element for the success of this project. I was also able to build contacts that I hope to follow up further down the line.
Overall it has been a very positive experience and I even managed to fit in a visit to Foz do Iguacu where they have the most incredible waterfalls at the meeting point of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, a very beautiful and natural example of regional meeting points!
Editor’s Note: Hazel Price is an ESRC funded doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol and a member of the Centre for Globalisation, Education & Social Futures. Her research investigates the multi-scalar making of quality assurance policies in Higher Education in Latin America and interactions with processes of regional integration.