byMalayna Raftopoulos, ILAS Stipendiary Fellow
The foundation of the National University of Toribio Rodriquez de Mendoza in September 2000 and its subsequent opening in July 2001 marked an important stage in the provision of higher education in the department of Amazonas and its capital Chachapoyas. Nestled in the mountains of the Eastern Cordillera in the department of Amazonas in northern Peru, the Chachapoyan region marks the cultural boundary between Andean highland society and Amazonian lowlanders. Described as the ‘ceja de selva’ (jungle’s eyebrow), this region of Peru has traditionally been neglected by the national government and has remained, due to its rugged terrain and geographical and political isolation, relatively cut off from the rest of the country. Prior to the creation of the University, students from Chachapoyas, as well as the surrounding provinces of Bagua, Bongará, Condorcanqui, Luya, Rodríguez de Mendoza and Utcubamba travelled to the coastal cities of Trujillo, Chiclayo and Lima to continue with their studies.
The University is proudly named after the city’s foremost scholar, Toribio Rodriquez de Mendoza. Born in 1750, Rodriquez de Mendoza spent his early years at the Saint Toribio of Lima Seminary preparing to enter the priesthood. In 1770, he gained his doctorate in theology from the National University of San Marcos in Lima and later went to become one of the most illustrious precursors for national independence and one of the founding members of the Peruvian congress. Rodriquez de Mendoza lived until he was 75 and died in 1825 shortly after the battle of Ayacucho, leaving behind an independent Peru. In homage to the great Chachapoyan scholar, the Peruvian government later introduced and named after him a medal honouring those who had contributed to defending the constitution and human rights while the department of Amazonas named one of its provinces after him.
Situated in the neighbourhood of Higos Urco on the outskirts of the city of Chachapoyas, the University is currently undergoing rapid expansion and infrastructural work. Only a small proportion of the planned site has been constructed on the 17 hectares set aside to accommodate this growing University and work continues in haste to build the necessary facilities to permit its continued development. Originally when it first opened its doors to students, it offered only four courses; Nursing, Tourism and Administration, Primary Education and Agro-industrial Engineering. Currently, the University offers an additional nine courses which include; Civil Engineering, Environmental Studies, Business Studies, Zoology, Law and Political Science, Horticulture, Dentistry, Administration and Computer Studies. In response to the increased demand for higher education in the region, the University launched its postgraduate programme offering master courses in Sustainable Development Management, Educational Administration, Civil Rights and Health Management. Although there are presently no doctoral students at the University, there is little doubt that this will change in the coming years as it continues to establish itself academically on a national and international level.
The continued development of the National University of Toribio Rodriquez de Mendoza offers hope for one of Peru’s poorer and most isolated departments. Not only does it offer thousands of students, who previously could not afford to travel to the coast, the opportunity to study, it is also one of the main sources of employment for the city of Chachapoyas. Currently, the University is desperately seeking qualified staff to teach the ever increasing number of students and to allow it to further elaborate the number of courses available. With its infrastructural development funded by the national government and the increased demand for higher education, the future seems extremely positive for this small University tucked away in the cloud forests of northern Peru.
For further information regarding the National University of Rodriquez de Mendoza visit its website: http://www.untrm.edu.pe/