The Dominican Republic had some 80,000 students enrolled in institutions of post-secondary education in the late 1980s. The largest institution, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo--UASD), had its main campus in the capital city and several branches in different areas of the country. The Catholic University (Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra--UCMM)--literally mother and teacher, with religious connotations not apparent in English--was located in the second largest city, Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago); another private university, the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University (Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña-- UNPHU), competed with the public university in the capital, as did a branch of the Catholic University. Several private research centers and technical institutes provided specialized postsecondary education.
The Autonomous University was highly politicized. The student body sometimes devoted whole weeks, or even semesters, to political activities. Most of the activist groups were composed op people who espoused leftist ideologies: communists, Trotskyites, independent revolutionaries, Marxists, sympathizers of Juan Bosch and his PLD, sympathizers of the PRD, and radical Christian organizations accounted for most of the membership of student political groups. The private universities were less politicized. Even in the public universities, however, the level of politicization varied according to the faculty: arts and letters as well as law tended to be more political; medicine and the sciences tended to be less so.
University students were important political actors, although as a group they did not appear to have the ability to topple a government by themselves. However, because education (especially higher education) was so rare in the Dominican Republic, the students formed an intellectual elite in the eyes of those less educated than they. Hence, in alliance with the trade unions and the urban unemployed, the students had the potential to provide a moral leadership that would expand their political reach and power.
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