CHALK IT UP

Colombia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | B2B: EVOLVING HIGHER EDUCATION

Universities are answering to the demands of Colombia's economy through technical degree programs focused on engineering, agriculture, research, and international alliances.

Leonidas López Herrán
LEONIDAS LÓPEZ HERRÁN
Rector General
UniMinuto
Cecilia María Vélez White
CECILIA MARÍA VÉLEZ WHITE
Rector
Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo lozano

What academic programs is your university promoting to meet the country's specific needs for human capital?

CECILIA MARÍA VÉLEZ White In the 1980s and 1990s the professions linked with rural development declined because of the violence. We are trying to reverse this and reclaim our reputation and position, and with the prospect of peace we consider this a field that the nation will need. We now have a research center in the north of Chia, where we conduct research and maintain greenhouses, the science of which we have a strong pedigree in. We are also working with Leuven University in Belgium to restart agricultural research. Additionally, we are considering the establishment of pre-graduate programs, potentially in agricultural engineering. Today, we offer food engineering, which links biology, agriculture, food, and engineering, and are working to establish another engineering program that links to the agricultural sector.

LEONIDAS LÓPEZ HERRÁN We have a technology park that promotes various technological innovations and activities, and we work closely with other educational institutions in various countries, including universities in Japan, Spain, and Brazil. On top of that we have various rural programs to improve the use of technologies, the quality of agricultural practices such as irrigation, innovation and sustainability, and social and economic development. Our students and staff also actively travel throughout Colombia and work in various parts of the country.

What are the university's key investments and expansion plans?

CMVW We are developing another building for the arts, due for completion in January 2016. And additionally, we are modernizing management and are putting an integrated information system in place, which has been extremely challenging. All processes have become integrated, which has required comprehensive input of all data without exception. We integrated the finance system last year and this January we initiated the academic system, which is part of our 2020 vision for development. We have to adjust all university procedures into this system. This has been an expensive investment in terms of time and money, and we hope to complete it by the end of this year.

LLH We always invest first and foremost in the quality of the education we provide and the quality of our academic offering. We work to constantly improve our staff, our technology, our infrastructure, our administrative platforms, where we use the SAP and Banner systems, for example. We seek to keep identifying the various educational needs of different parts of the country and see how we can help meet those needs. We always enter new projects with partners and through alliances, be it with the government or private institutions. Our aim is to increase our services and educational infrastructure to all regions that require it, and that can sustain and support it. Our main objective in the coming year is to keep offering more opportunities to more people. We believe that will also translate into better communities and contribute to the development of Colombia overall. There are increasing opportunities to help the people at the base of the pyramid, and it's only by helping the development of this segment of the population that the country can truly develop as a whole in the long term.

What alliances have you developed with international organizations and institutions?

CMVW We are conducting research and bringing in PhD holding academics from all over the world, who almost always come with links to external universities. For example, we work together with L'Université Paris Decartes and we have experience in science pedagogy, through which we are better able to foster scientific thinking among students. We have been working with that institution for two years reinforcing a project that we call the Tadeolab to develop an interdisciplinary methodology. We also work together with the Alveiro University in Portugal. Through our association with this institution we intend to link the university with a network of innovative universities.

LLH We have two types of international activity: one is classic academic activity, sending members of our academic staff and students to other universities in exchange programs like any other institute of higher education. But secondly, we also have a model whereby we transfer our educational model to African countries, starting with Ivory Coast, and shortly expanding to include Benin. We have packaged our model and our system, with everything from how to operate and manage it, how to set it up, how to conduct research, and undertake academic processes, and administration, among others. We want to establish this system in the Ivory Coast, which will require around six or seven years, and we are receiving funding and support for this project from the IFC and the World Bank, as well as other agencies including the governments of both Colombia and the Ivory Coast, who are keen to promote rare South-South programs such as this. The Ivory Coast is very similar to Colombia, in terms of being a developing country, a tropical country with similar climatic conditions, and similar needs in rural areas.