Indigenous University and Social Change in Bolivia: A Case Study of UNIBOL Apiaguaiki Tüpa and its Role in Facilitating Social Change in Bolivia

Simone Mønk Jespersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Bolivia is a country characterized by socio-economic inequality with a distinction between indigenous people and people of Spanish origen, of which the latter traditionally has constituted the higher social class of Bolivian society. To address this issue, three new indigenous universities were created in Bolivia in 2008 called UNIBOL. The UNIBOL universities are designed to fit indigenous cultures and practices and seek to give poor indigenous people in Bolivia the opportunity to pursue a university degree and thereby even out some of the inequalities. The thesis seeks to investigate the potential of one of the three UNIBOLs, namely UNIBOL Apiaguaiki Tüpa to facilitate social change. The investigation is based on Bourdieu’s explanation of social structures and the mechanisms in the social world that reproduce them. Leaning on Bourdieu’s notion the thesis has identified a tendency in which traditional Bolivian universities (not UNIBOL) pass on the legitimate culture to their students, which means that only the students with the proper ‘habitus’ will perform well at the universities. Bourdieu’s notion of habitus leans on the notion ‘culture’, and seeks to explain the basis for individual’s actions and opportunities.
Bourdieu notes that the legitimate culture tends to be a product of the culture of the higher classes in society (Bourdieu, 1984), which would not include indigenous people in Bolivia. This implies that traditional university culture is synchronized with the culture of the student’s from higher social layers of society. As a result of this, these students are likely to perform well at traditional universities. The analysis suggest that the existence of a legitimate culture in traditional Bolivian universities has an excluding effect for indigenous people that thus are less likely to pursue a university degree. However, the thesis finds that the culture present at UNIBOL Apiaguaki Tüpa differs from traditional Bolivian universities in this respect, implying that it is better suited for people of indigenous origen, that as a result could have better possibilities for improving their socio-economic position. This analysis therefore suggests that the existence of UNIBOL has the potential to create change in Bolivian society.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages119