Common Practice PRESENTS
Democratic Education

Ana Laura López de la Torre discusses the history and democratic structures of the Universidad de la República, Uruguay, with Sophie Hope.

Episode 021     October 28, 2022
Contributors    Sophie Hope     |   Ana Laura López de la Torre    

In the first of a 2 part podcast, Professor Ana Laura López de la Torre discusses the history and democratic structures of the Universidad de la República, Uruguay with Sophie Hope.

Ana Laura López de la Torre is a Professor in the Facultad de Artes, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay and for 2022-23 is an Honorary Research Fellow with the School of Arts, Birkbeck. She has an established participatory arts and research practice established between 2000 and 2012 when she lived and worked in London, with major commissions from the ICA, Whitechapel Gallery, Gasworks, Tate Modern and South London Gallery, La Casa Encendida (Spain), de kunstbank (Belgium) and Demokratische Kunstwochen (Switzerland). She also worked as Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts, London.

Since moving back to Uruguay in 2012 she has been the Director of the Centro Cultural Florencio Sánchez, a public cultural centre in Cerro, a historical neighbourhood in the periphery of Montevideo. She continued to develop her participatory arts practice in the region, developing projects related to community-based organisation, cultural democracy and environmental struggles in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. From 2012 to 2015 she was the Coordinator of the first Uruguayan postgraduate course in Cultural Management, at the Espacio Interdisciplinario of the Universidad de la República, where she still teaches and is part of its Academic Advisory Board. In her current post at the Universidad de la República, she leads a department specialised in community-based art, and within this department she is Coordinator of two interdisciplinary research groups: Naturaleza, Sociedad y Arte (exploring human / more-than-human relationship in urban communities) and ACTO (Art, Organised Communities and Territories).

The Universidad de la República is the public university of Uruguay. Founded in 1849, it enrols over 150 thousand students annually. It offers free tuition at undergraduate and postgraduate level in all disciplines and fields of knowledge. With its main infrastructure in Montevideo, over the last 30 years the university has embarked in a decentralisation process, creating 10 university campuses in different cities.

Although fully funded by the state, the autonomy of the university’s governance was enshrined in a national law in 1958 following 20 years of organised action by students. The governing bodies of all the Faculties and Institutes (and its central authorities) are democratically elected, with representation of teachers, students and graduate bodies, all academic, political and managerial decisions are taken by these bodies. Voting is compulsory and takes place every 4 years. The term ‘university democracy’ encompasses this form of self-governance, which over the decades has produced the ethical guides that rule academic life.