Latin America - ALFA III - Building the Future on Education

Latin America - ALFA III - Building the Future on Education

ALFA III is a cooperation programme between the European Union and Latin America, promoting higher education as a means of social and economic development and struggle against social inequality.



The ALFA III Programme (2007-2013; total EU contribution €75 million) represents the only existing programme aiming at the modernisation of Higher Education in Latin America as a platform to promote sustainable and equitable development in the region. This programme ensures a process of ownership by the Latin American countries through the creation of networks and synergies between universities in Latin America and Europe.  In this regard, ALFA III is in line with the EU-Latin American's Common Higher Education Area objective, recognised as a strategic element for strengthening bilateral and multilateral relations between the two regions, where higher education institutions play a leading role in the process of improving the quality of national education systems which in turn enables socio-economic development.

The programme has expanded in both budget and scope since the first  31 million phase (1994-1999), increased to  €54.6 million in the second phase (2000-2006).

The third phase of the programme – ALFA III – financed a diversity of projects to improve the quality, relevance and accessibility of higher education in Latin America and further regional integration through the creation of a higher education area. The participating countries are the 28 Member States of the European Union and 18 countries of Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Non-government organisations, chambers of commerce, professional associations, private companies all have an associate role.


In order to achieve sustainable social change the ALFA III projects seek to:

  • Improve the quality of higher education and its relevance to the needs of society, creating links between higher education institutions and the job market.
  • Foster enduring access to higher education institutions for the most vulnerable sectors of society.
  • Modernise, reform and harmonise higher education systems in Latin America.

Since 2014, cooperation with partner countries in the field of higher education is supported through the new Erasmus+ programme.


The ALFA III programme comprises 51 projects managed and implemented through networks of higher education institutions in both regions.

Examples of ALFA III funded projects are:

  • the provision of higher education to those living in remote areas without access to higher education institutions;
  • cooperation with the private sector to create jobs and equal opportunities for students;
  • innovative teaching methods which respond to students’ needs including the use of new technology to set up networks between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs);
  • sustainable development research projects such as in the area of natural resources management, climate change mitigation and the promotion of renewable energies;
  • exchanging and developing expertise and research into and introducing renewable energies into study programmes to develop regional expertise.


Altogether 51 projects have been implemented involving 494 distinct participating institutions: 153 come from the EU and 341 from Latin America. Furthermore, the number of overall participations from Latin America Higher Education Institutions in ALFA III (2007-2013) ascended to close to 600. A total of 14 projects (27%) were coordinated by Latin American Higher Education Institutions from 8 different countries.

Main achievements of the ALFA III Programme are:

  • It ensured a process of ownership by the Latin American countries through the creation of networks and synergies between universities in the region;
  • High level of institutionalisation of the processes carried out by the HEIs, with favourable sustainability perspectives;
  • It has contributed to the development of new curricula, the modernisation of existing courses, and the introduction of modern learning, teaching techniques and the dissemination of best practices;
  • New shared technological tools are provided through established networks between HEIs;
  • ALFA III has improved access to higher education for populations living in remote areas and vulnerable groups;
  • It has contributed to the construction of a common Latin American Higher Education area and strengthens regional integration processes as established in the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) Regulation;
  • The programme has favoured particular connections between public policies and HEIs participating in the programme, which could contribute to the review of education policies;
  • It has promoted the connection between universities and the private sector, namely SMEs, through the alignment of curricula with the needs of the local labour market, to promote employability;
  • It has had an impact in the environment field (e.g. climate change, water and renewable energy), contributing to sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

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