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Alfonso Sanchez-Tabernero Sanchez, President of the University of Navarra

Ramón Gonzalo, President of the Public University of Navarre (UPNA)

Universities, the engine of development of Navarra

Our best opportunity to move forward can be found at research, creativity, innovation, and the knowledge 

Tue, 08 Oct 2019 11:13:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper, Newspaper News

In Navarra we have just inaugurated a new government and for the first time we have a ministry dedicated exclusively to Universities, Innovation and Digital Transformation. In the opening ceremonies of academic year in our universities we have had the opportunity to welcome the president and the counselor. Just these days, Juan Cruz Cigudosa has outlined in Parliament the strategic lines on which he intends to base his government action in the coming years. Some have questioned the creation of a Ministry of Universities. As rectors, we believe that this decision represents a challenge and at the same time a great opportunity as a lever for development for our region.

Building, facilitating, promoting. These were some of the ideas expressed in the Parliament by the new Councilor for Universities. He can count on us in this task. Within the plurality and diversity of a community such as ours, let us focus on what unites us: a university system that contributes to the economic, social and cultural development of the region. Let us remember that Navarre has one of the best university systems in Spain. This is endorsed by the latest report of the Foundation knowledge and development, which places Navarre's universities in second position, only behind those of Catalonia. The report analyzes 73 universities, 23 areas of knowledge and 2,235 degrees. These rankings evaluate all dimensions of university activity. In addition to the higher training (Degrees and masters), they classify according to research projects, international orientation, transfer of knowledge and contribution to development regional. The Navarra university system is almost at the top. As in everything, it is necessary to take the data with caution and avoid complacency. And it is important to know where we should improve: in increasing the capacity to obtain funds to finance research projects. If we achieve this, we will achieve a position of leadership not only in Spain, but also in Europe and the rest of the world.

The universities in Navarra, moreover, work in the spirit of partnership. We know that together we can offer our community a service that would be difficult to provide separately. The creation of IDISNA, the high school for the research in Health in which both universities participate, is sample of this harmony.

Navarra will not compete either by economies of scale -we are not big enough- or by low wage costs -fortunately average salaries in our community are higher than in other parts of the world-. Our best opportunity to move forward -to create stable and quality employment - can be found at research, creativity, innovation and knowledge. And that means betting on the university system as a true engine of progress in our region, capable of promoting prosperity, cohesion and the scientific and cultural development of Navarre.

Let's look at Madrid, Catalonia or the Basque Country. In Madrid, the Community has allocated 56.6 million euros over the last three years to attract 338 researchers who were previously developing their projects outside Spain.

In Catalonia, the Generalitat's commitment to the ICREA foundation (Catalan Institution for Advanced research and programs of study ) has raised €780 million in funding for research since it was created in 2001; in 2017 each researcher has raised 4 times its cost in external funding and generated 7.2 highly qualified work positions.

In 2007, the Basque Government launched Ikerbasque to help develop scientific research in its universities. This foundation hires permanent researchers who develop their work in the universities and centers of research of the Basque Country. There are 239 researchers that make up this academic community, with 6,429 indexed publications and 175 million euros obtained for research projects.

What can the Government of Navarra do? In line with the best experiences elsewhere, it can establish scholarship programs with good financial endowments for students and encourage the attraction of international talent. These measures have a multiplier effect and immediate impact. Together with teaching and research, universities promote social promotion projects. "Campus inclusive, campus without limits" is an activity recently organized by the University of Navarra and the Public University of Navarra. This initiative opens the doors of the universities to the most vulnerable: people with disabilities or at risk of exclusion. María, one of the participating students, said a few weeks ago: "What I have learned from this experience is that if you want to, you can. That any dream can be fulfilled. The universities of Navarra aspire to serve many people better and better. We try to offer a high quality training and promote scientific advances that benefit society as a whole. We are also confident that we will receive the necessary support to effectively carry out these important tasks.