This comparative study explores institutional diversity in three South American higher education systems: Argentina, Chile and Peru. From a perspective of external diversity (among institutions), it offers a differentiated understanding on the ways in which the emergency of providers outside the university patterns have been promoted and developed identifying tensions, challenges and current responses. The diversification process ended with the university monopoly in higher education but not with its condition as an institutional referent. However, a variety of providers are strengthening their increasing role by showing positive achievements in aspects as stability, regulation, information systems and quality enhancement
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