From Researching Virtual Initiatives in Education

Jump to: navigation, search

Original Re.ViCa entry by Paul Bacsich with desk research by Iris Velasquez Noguera

For entities in Nicaraguasee Category:Nicaragua


Partners situated in Nicaragua


Nicaragua in a nutshell

Nicaragua - officially the Republic of Nicaragua (Spanish: República de Nicaragua) - is a representative democratic republic. It is the largest state in Central America with an area of 130,000 sq km, about the size of the state of New York. The country is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west of the country, the Caribbean Sea to the east. Falling within the tropics, Nicaragua sits 11 degrees north of the Equator, in the Northern Hemisphere. Nicaragua's capital city is Managua.

The origin of the name Nicaragua is unclear; one theory is that it was coined by Spanish colonists based upon the name of the local chief at that time, Nicarao; another is that it may have meant "surrounded by water" in an indigenous language (this could either be a reference to its two large freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua, or to the fact that it bounded on the east and the west by oceans).

The population of Nicaragua is 5,785,846 (source:

Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Currently, Nicaragua's major political parties have been discussing the possibility of going from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. This way, there would be a clear differentiation between the head of government (Prime Minister) and the head of state (President).

For administrative purposes Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments (departamentos) and two self-governing regions (autonomous communities) based on the Spanish model. The departments are then subdivided into 153 municipios (municipalities). The two autonomous regions are 'Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte' and 'Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur', often referred to as RAAN and RAAS, respectively.

Nicaragua's population has a comprises mainly 69% mestizo, 17% white, 9% black and 5% amerindian; this fluctuates with changes in migration patterns. The population is 54% urban.

The most populous city in Nicaragua is the capital, Managua, with a population of 1.2 million (2005). As of 2005, over 4.4 million inhabitants live in the Pacific, Central and North regions, 2.7 in the Pacific region alone, while inhabitants in the Caribbean region reached an estimated 700,000.[81]

There is a growing expatriate community, the majority of whom move for business, investment or retirement from United States, Canada, Europe, Taiwan, and other countries; the majority have settled in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur.

Spanish is spoken by about 90% of the country's population. In Nicaragua the Voseo form is common, as also in Argentina, Uruguay and coastal Colombia. In the Caribbean coast many Afro-Nicaraguans and creoles speak English and creole English as their first language. Also in the Caribbean coast, many Indigenous people speak their native languages, such as the Miskito, Sumo, Rama and Garifuna language. In addition, many ethnic groups in Nicaragua have maintained their ancestral languages, while also speaking Spanish or English; these include Chinese, Arabic, German, and Italian.

Religion is a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and is referred to in the constitution. Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939 and religious tolerance are promoted by both the Nicaraguan government and the constitution. Nicaragua has no official religion. However, Catholic Bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed. They can also be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis.

The largest denomination, and traditionally the religion of the majority, is Roman Catholic. However, the numbers of practicing Roman Catholics have been declining, while members of evangelical Protestant groups and Mormons have been rapidly growing in numbers since the 1990s. There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast.

Nicaragua education policy

Education is free for all Nicaraguans. Elementary education is free and compulsory, however, many children in rural areas are unable to attend due to lack of schools and other reasons. Communities located on the Caribbean coast have access to education in their native languages.

As of 1979, the educational system was one of the poorest in Latin America. Under the Somoza dictatorships, limited spending on education and generalized poverty, which forced many adolescents into the labor market, constricted educational opportunities for Nicaraguans. One of the first acts of the newly elected Sandinista government in 1980 was an extensive and successful literacy campaign, using secondary school students, university students and teachers as volunteer teachers: it reduced the overall illiteracy rate from 50.3% to 12.9% within only five months. This was one of a number of large scale programs which received international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform.[ In September 1980, UNESCO awarded Nicaragua the “Nadezhda K. Krupskaya” award for the literacy campaign. This was followed by the literacy campaigns of 1982, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 2000, all of which were also awarded by UNESCO.

The majority of higher education institutions are located in Managua.

Higher education has financial, organic and administrative autonomy, according to the law. Also, freedom of subjects is recognized.

Schools in Nicaragua

Higher education

Nicaragua's higher education system consists of 48 universities, and 113 colleges and technical institutes in the areas of electronics, computer systems and sciences, agroforestry, construction and trade-related services. The educational system includes 1 U.S. accredited English-language university, 3 Bilingual university programs, 5 Bilingual secondary schools and dozens of English Language Institutes. In 2005, almost 400,000 (7%) of Nicaraguans held a university degree. 18% of Nicaragua's total budget is invested in primary, secondary and higher education. University level institutions account for 6% of 18%.

Universities in Nicaragua

There are two principal universities in Nicaragua:

  • Central American University (Universidad Centroaméricana - UCA)
  • National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua - UNAN)

During the transition period of the outgoing Sandinista regime, the country's four state and two private universities were granted (under Law 89) academic, financial, and administrative autonomy through the University Autonomy Law. The universities were also given the right to elect their own rectors, faculty council, and other governing bodies.

The law also established the National University Council (CNU) as the official coordinating and consulting body for all universities and vocational colleges. The autonomous CNU, not the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, is charged with enacting national higher-education policy, approving the creation of new universities and vocational colleges, and disseminating State funds directed to higher education. The CNU's sole function with regards to quality assurance is in the licensing of new private universities. Therefore, Nicaraguan universities function under almost complete autonomy, operating without regulation from a national quality assurance agency.

Nicaragua has ten "old" universities, four of which are public and six private. They are termed "old" universities because they were opened before the ratification of Law 89 in 1990. These ten universities are all recognized by the CNU, and they are considered the core of the Nicaraguan tertiary system, serving more than 50,000 students. However, due to rapidly increasing demand for higher education, and stagnation in the growth of public higher education, more than 44 "new" private universities and colleges have opened since 1990, enrolling approximately 65,000 students.

There are are two main lists of universities, one from the CNU and one from the IAU. The IAU list is likely to be more reliable - it is given below. Note that many of the institutions listed are private.

  1. Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University
  2. Escuela Internacional de Agricultura y Ganadería
  3. Escuela Politécnica de Comercio
  4. Universidad Adventista de Nicaragua
  5. Universidad Americana
  6. Universidad Autónoma de Chinandega
  7. Universidad Católica 'Redemptoris Mater'
  8. Universidad Católica Agropecuaria del Trópico Seco
  9. Universidad Central de Nicaragua
  10. Universidad Centroamericana de Ciencias Empresariales
  11. Universidad Centroamericana, Managua - a member of IAU
  12. Universidad Cristiana Autónoma de Nicaragua
  13. Universidad de Ciencias Comerciales
  14. Universidad de las Américas
  15. Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe Nicaragüense
  16. Universidad de Managua
  17. Universidad de Occidente-León
  18. Universidad del Norte de Nicaragua
  19. Universidad del Valle de Nicaragua
  20. Universidad Evangélica Nicaragüense, Martin Luther King
  21. Universidad Hispanoamericana
  22. Universidad Iberoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología
  23. Universidad Internacional de la Integración de América Latina
  24. Universidad Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  25. Universidad Juan Pablo II de Ciencias Sociales Aplicadas
  26. Universidad La Anunciata
  27. Universidad Martín Lutero "Un Ministerio de las Asambleas de Dios
  28. Universidad Metropolitana
  29. Universidad Nacional Agraria
  30. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua-Managua
  31. Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería
  32. Universidad Nicaragüense de Ciencia y Tecnología
  33. Universidad Paulo Freire
  34. Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua
  35. Universidad Popular de Nicaragua
  36. Universidad Santo Tomás de Oriente y Medio Día
  37. Universidad Tecnológica Nicaragüense
  38. Universidad Thomas More

For further reading see Nicaragua: New Private versus Old Private and Public -

Polytechnics in Nicaragua

Education reform

Issues of private universities and accountability

A recent report from the Interamerican Development Bank notes:

Autonomy and Accountability

In 1990, Nicaragua's National Assembly approved law 89, which in the opinion of many critics guarantees an unusual degree of autonomy and a lack of accountability. In accordance with this law, neither public nor private universities are regulated by any ministry or other governmental unit. The law divides higher education into "universities" and "higher technical centers." The government subsidizes these institutions directly through the legally mandated 6 percent of the national budget dedicated to higher education. It also founded the National University Council, as a coordinating and consulting entity. The council's only authority with regard to the new private institutions is to authorize their operations. Subsequently, these institutions enjoy total autonomy.

In spite of efforts to make improvements, during the last few years, the subsidized universities have largely remained extremely bureaucratic, with weak planning capacity and outdated didactic methodologies and curriculum contents. The admissions process shows that the secondary school graduates are very unskilled. The majority of applicants attain minimum scores in Spanish and mathematics. Another concern is that few university professors hold doctoral degrees. Most universities function at the periphery of the international scientific community, unable to produce and adapt the knowledge needed to confront the most urgent economic and social problems of the country.

New vs. Old Private Universities

As throughout Latin America, Nicaragua has been affected by significant expansion of higher education, which has increased the diversity of interests and aspirations of admitted students. Given the failure of Nicaragua's public universities to expand and diversify, dynamic changes in the higher education system have occurred through the large and growing number of new private universities. While these new private institutions tend to be devoted to teaching or training as their main activity, there is much heterogeneity among them. Some have existed for 10 years or more whereas others are quite young. Teaching, facilities, and infrastructure quality also differs greatly. Enrollment rates range from just 100 to over 4,000. Some institutions have branches in different parts of the country, and many are family owned. Level of tuition fees also differs greatly.

The old private universities have played an equally important role as have the public universities. Both are top choices for able students and are able to offer scholarships financed with funds from the 6 percent government subsidy. Some new private institutions, despite their small size, have made progress that will likely allow them to assume an important place within the higher education system. Many have introduced new modalities for satisfying enrollment demands. Thus, night classes are common, as are classes on weekends. In such ways, the new privates expand access for a population otherwise marginalized. However, the quality of the teaching methods, learning content and programs, remain questionable.

Two years ago, all old privates and publics but only some of new privates carried out a voluntary institutional self-evaluation process, focusing on strengths and weaknesses followed by an external peer review and the drafting of a plan of action. As a result, the majority of the participating institutions are interested in setting up an independent national accreditation system. Several new private universities have already sought accreditation through private regional accreditation agencies. However, most of them are concerned about their ability to meet international accreditation standards and the consequences that may result from failure. While Nicaragua's higher education institutions, especially the new private institutions, are still far from reaching international standards, recent advances hold promise for bringing the country closer to the Latin American region overall.

Administration and finance

Quality assurance

A recent article from WES describes the emerging situation:

Developments in Accreditation:

The rapid growth of Nicaragua’s private sector and the contrasting standstill in the public university sector has sparked a national debate over the need to introduce evaluation and accreditation procedures in the tertiary system. Private universities vary wildly in terms of resources, enrollments, quality and infrastructure, while public universities are often characterized as overly bureaucratic, antiquated in their teaching methods and resistant to change. The quality of education in either public or private universities is volatile, a situation that has led to the pursuit by government officials of a national system of accreditation.

In 2001, the Nicaraguan government received a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to facilitate a project that would help introduce a quality assurance system in tertiary education. Beyond the immediate evaluation of the nation’s universities and colleges, another major goal of the project was to develop a permanent national system for the evaluation and accreditation of higher education. Through the IDB program, 33 universities (4 State, 29 private) have participated in a program of internal evaluation and external evaluation, forming the basis for the creation of a national accreditation body. The exercise engendered a new awareness of quality assurance in the nation’s institutions of higher education and required all participating universities and colleges to reevaluate their management, and to compose a plan of action based on the evaluation process.

Information society

Towards the information society

Information society strategy

Virtual initiatives

Interesting Virtual Campus Initiatives

(another very important section)

Interesting Programmes

Campus Virtual de Salud Pública

Nicaragua plays a small part in the Campus Virtual de Salud Pública (Virtual Campus for Public Health).

The partners are:

  1. PAHO/WHO, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization
  2. UOC, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  3. EASP, Andalusian School of Public Health, Spain
  4. ENSP Foundation Oswaldo Cruz FIOCRUZ, Brazil
  5. FSP, Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP) , Brazil
  6. FNSP Hector Abad Gómez, University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
  7. ESP University of Chile, Chile
  8. Department Public Health/ School of Medicine UNAM, Mexico
  9. FASPA/ School Health Public and Administration, Peru
  10. WBI, World Bank Institute, Washington, DC
  11. MSH, Management Sciences for Health
  12. Foundation ISALUD, Institute of the Health environment, economy and society, Argentina
  13. NUTES, Nucleus of Educational Technology for Health, UFRJ, Brazil
  14. CIESS, Research Center and Studies of the Health of UNITE, Nicaragua

ELAC project

There are some interesting workshops that have been held under the ELAC project (under the EU @LIS programme) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua and the Universidad Centro Americana in Nicaragua - see the ELAC reports at

Re.ViCa Case-study


Lessons learnt



> Countries
>> Main Page

This page was last modified on 28 January 2013, at 16:27. This page has been accessed 9,184 times.