President Andrés Manuel López Obrador published in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF) a decree approving the National Higher Education Program 2023-2024 (PRONES). With the official start of PRONES, the National Development Plan (PND) 2019-2024 is fulfilled, which establishes the federal government’s commitment to guarantee access to higher education for all young people.

Likewise, the provisions of article 56 of the General Law of Higher Education, published in the DOF on April 20, 2021, are satisfied, where the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) is granted the power and obligation to develop a program in the national Higher Education (HE) system that includes objectives, policies, strategies, lines of action and universal goals for each of the educational subsystems, with a prospective and long-term vision.

PRONES represents a milestone, both for its intention to universalize access to higher education (HE), and for giving it an unprecedented meaning, in accordance with the ongoing transformative project and the needs of Mexican society. In its epilogue, entitled Vision Towards the Future, the goal set is to raise coverage to a level above 70 percent by 2040. Beginning in the 2024-2025 school year, there will be a phase of accelerated enrollment growth, and the mandatory and free nature of its services will be implemented for the benefit of 5.5 million students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Knowing that the re-articulation of the HE will take place in a context of major transformations, of a paradigmatic, generational, demographic transition and ruptures in global geopolitics, it will seek to leave behind the ruinous model of competition between universities and other educational institutions of higher education (HE), and give rise to co-responsibility within the framework of shared development goals. The isolation and fragmentation generated by the logic of competitiveness will become past history, replaced by the promotion of “cooperation oriented towards knowledge, trans-disciplinarity, science, free access to information, connectivity, sustainability and digitalization, from the perspective of HE as a public and social good.”

To achieve these ambitious and socially necessary goals, PRONES outlines six major priority objectives, each one with strategies for achieving that objective, which in turn are broken down into a long series of specific actions. Among these objectives are some as transcendental as expanding coverage with equity, inclusion and inter-culturality; promoting continuous improvement and innovation by revaluing academic staff, the practice of sports, and the fostering of sciences, humanities and technological development. PRONES will promote a territorial perspective in Institutions of Higher Education in order to contribute to the well-being of local populations and the sustainable development of the whole country.

One of the few sociopolitical consensuses is the certainty that education is and will be the fundamental tool of national transformation and development. In this understanding, the National Higher Education Program 2023-2024 represents an invaluable opportunity to enhance teaching so that it becomes an instrument of progress for students, for their environment, and for society as a whole.

This editorial first appeared in the Friday, December 29th, 2023 issue of La Jornada newspaper and was translated by the Mexico Solidarity Project.