Universidad de la Integración de las Américas (UNIDA) is not only one of Paraguay’s few international universities, but also one of South America’s leading research-based institutions. Its defining aim is to nurture well-rounded professionals with the expertise and social awareness to make a positive contribution to Paraguayan society. The sleek, modern campus in Asunción was founded in 2003 and is home to more than 4,000 students. Comprising faculties of health, engineering, law and management, UNIDA has attracted national and international acclaim for its academic excellence. However, as the Rector Leila Rachid Lichi explains: “This is not meant to be a professional factory. No company wants graduates who are more of the same. We want to train men and women who believe they have a mission in the country and the wider world.”

Around two thirds of Paraguay’s population is under 30, which means that there is intense competition for the best jobs within the country’s thriving economy. To maximise its graduates’ prospects, UNIDA is undergoing an ambitious expansion programme called the Master Plan, which has been developed with expert academic advice from Canada, the USA and leading South American institutions. Initially, 20 new regional faculties are being established in Paraguay focusing on business, law and computer science.

The first of these to open was in the regional department of Canindeyú, where students are taking business administration, international business and accounting. “We are seizing the initiative with this innovative academic model and infrastructure to attract top-level students,” says Leila. The course structure at the new satellite faculties will allow students to pursue graduate studies in Brazil, or further afield in Europe. As well as establishing international links that allow graduates to study abroad, UNIDA boasts an acclaimed postgraduate medical school of its own, with some 400 students.

Agents of change Phases two and three of the Master Plan will see UNIDA continue to enhance its computer facilities, working in tandem with its strategic partners IBM and Microsoft to establish the most advanced computer science centre in Paraguay. Students at UNIDA are considered to be agents of change. As such, UNIDA’s forward-thinking educational model, state-of-the-art technology and international business alliances are vital to its efforts to equip its students for the fast-changing demands that are placed on today’s professionals.

In tandem with its nationwide educational advances, UNIDA is forging links with prominent universities across Europe and the Americas, encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas between visiting students and teachers. Its international trade and marketing course, for example, takes in students from the University of Sonora in Mexico. UNIDA has also been chosen to host the International Executive MBA course of the University of Montreal.

This dynamic approach to broadening educational borders led to UNIDA being named the World Trade Organisation’s South American headquarters for its 2014 training programme. The resulting academic exchanges, full scholarship programme, and national and overseas internships will only serve as further incentives for the brightest graduates hoping to gain international experience.

“In our classrooms and research laboratories, we are helping students to find the meaning behind their chosen career, and to be committed to using their knowledge for the benefit of others,” says Leila. With significant investment in technology and people, and international and national partnerships, UNIDA is providing its graduates with the tools to take on key roles in the development and enrichment of Paraguay.