A university system at the service of Catalonia's progress

'If you don't know where to steer your ship, the winds will not be in your favor', said Seneca.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 February 2024 Sunday 21:49
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A university system at the service of Catalonia's progress

'If you don't know where to steer your ship, the winds will not be in your favor', said Seneca. The scientific method, the weighted judgment on the certainties that derive from experience and rigorous analysis gives us greater guarantees to set the right course for our universities. We know where we want to steer the ship of the Catalan university system and I want to take advantage of the fact that I assume the presidency of the ACUP to share this publicly and ask for the political support and of Catalan society so that the ship of the universities arrives at the right port and is a source of progress and well-being for our country.

In recent years we have been immersed in humanitarian, economic, health and climate crises and it does not seem that the short-term future should change. The mission of universities is to take action and look for solutions, to add intelligence that allows us to emerge stronger as a society. As university administrators, we need to encourage and stimulate a positive attitude and build a knowledge-intensive society for the sake of collective progress.

The first aspect I want to talk to you about is innovation, the key to social and economic development and intellectual growth. In fact, we have evolved as humanity thanks to curiosity, to the primordial desire to know, to "curiosity as food for the spirit", as Montaigne said. In universities, knowledge is created and developed through research, a new generation of citizens is socialized through training and disseminated for the benefit of society and the socio-cultural and socio-economic sectors.

Innovation must be the daily guideline of universities, stimulated by the management teams and training all the people who make up the university community. We need a true innovative culture. I am talking about transparency, public information, efficiency and participation on the way to a completely digital administration; also, to give confidence to teaching teams that generate passion for learning and offer them the possibility of working more autonomously, so that they can apply the tools of a learning adapted to the students and with new teaching methodologies adapted to the trends demanded by society; of policies to stimulate research activity; to guarantee the renewal of teaching and research infrastructures; and, finally, to properly deploy the new Organic Law of the University System (LOSU) so that it becomes a new source of opportunities for new generations.

In recent decades, we have applied an expansive policy in the number of studies and the number of students, due to the growth of the population and the universalization of higher education. This model is running out. A demographic turning point is announced, with a stabilization of the Catalan population in the medium term. I'm not saying we did things wrong. We have done them well: Catalan public universities are at the top of the state rankings and well positioned in international ones. Catalonia has been placed among the countries with the highest percentage of population with higher education studies. But now we need to adapt and rethink our university model: move from a model based more on quantity to one that encourages constant improvement in quality. A quality for a more inclusive and more accessible university. For this we need a new funding model for public universities that promotes quality and permeates the entire university structure, teaching, research, transfer and management; it is necessary to requalify the staff structure, rethink training plans and recognize quality in the professional career; it is necessary to develop policies to adapt to international standards and to give prestige to universities with seals of quality; and transversal bachelor's and master's studies, open degrees, double degrees, transitions from higher degree training cycles to university studies and permanent and lifelong training are needed. Because we are facing a new collective paradigm and also for our institutions

The third aspect, completely determining, is the management of talents. Institutions are nothing without people. This statement takes all its relevance from the etymological root of the word university. University comes from the Latin universitas – the whole –, referring to a community of teachers and students who share common goals around knowledge.

Universities are organizations made up of people capable of identifying the challenges that society poses to us and proposing innovative solutions, as has been demonstrated recently when, thanks to science, we have faced, as a society, and for the first time the history, to a global pandemic.

Within the university community it is essential to create and maintain an environment of trust and shared enthusiasm, promoting the recognition and enjoyment of those who teach and those who learn, those who research and those who manage: create an environment where being a happy student, working, living the university, with recognition and accountability, where everyone can make their contribution to improvement.

Thus, talent management involves promoting the representation of students both in government and in university life, and involves capturing and retaining teaching and research talent, promoting a good generational transition and the transmission of knowledge between generations, and it happens to work even more for universal access to higher education and for a university, and I will insist here as many times as necessary, egalitarian and inclusive; only in this way will we guarantee to have, day after day, a better university.

Finally, the last aspect I want to talk about is social commitment. We understand social commitment as all those actions that lead us to a more equitable world with equal opportunities: equality for women, for vulnerable or socially or culturally marginalized groups, for people with disabilities, specific needs or health problems; and also, of course, social commitment to the planet on a global scale, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the context of the university, social commitment must be assumed from two sides: first, through ethical and socially responsible research, commitment to sustainable economic and social development, critical reflection from the scientific knowledge of the country's transcendental issues, from policies to care for vulnerable people, in short, through a contribution, from knowledge, for a fairer, freer, inclusive, supportive and democratic society. Secondly, and no less important, the university must assume the social commitment also individually, putting ourselves in the shoes of each of the students, girls and boys, to whom we must be able to offer personalized attention and, if necessary , help with emergency scholarships, psychological care or so many other things that have an individual and personal component beyond social commitment understood globally.

If I emphasize these four concepts - innovation, quality, talent management and social commitment - it is because from ACUP we assume a firm commitment to pour all our work capacity into continuing to strengthen a university leader for the sake of social progress, justice and the well-being of our country. We demand more political and economic support because we are fully aware that by betting on knowledge and universities we will create a more progressive, more humane and fairer society.