What are the strengths of UDH in the education landscape of Ecuador?
The big difference between UDH and other universities is that our main educational focus is centered on the values of people. We provide real personalized education, and this is the main reason why we do not have as many students: we want to be able to build close relationships with our students. UDH was established 14 years ago with approximately 100 students, and today we have 1,500 students. The Higher Education Law changed 10 years ago and requires 60% of a university's professors to hold PhDs. The country needed this regulation to improve the quality of higher education; however, meeting this target in a short period of time is a challenge. We seek to contribute to disciplines that can help change our society. We teach subjects such as law, dentistry, communications, business, and political science. However, we have designed our courses to teach our students to think differently, for example, regarding family issues such as marriage and abortion. Our students today are extremely different from those of 20 or 30 years ago; they learn differently and are fast adopters of new technologies. The difficulty is changing the mindset of teachers so they can keep pace with the new generation of students.
What is your vision for working with the private sector?
Our graduates have to be prepared to work in both private and public sectors, and we have designed our curricula to meet this challenge. We have been building close relationships with the private sector through our Entrepreneurial Advisory Board formed by prestigious businesspeople. We also have signed many internships agreements with law firms and enterprises for our students to gain real work experience. We are also more flexible in terms of changing the topics we teach, and we can invite other professionals and business people to teach some subjects. Moreover, we have agreements with other universities in the US and Europe, giving our students the opportunity to go on exchange programs overseas.
Would you tell us about your work with the Open Government Alliance, which focuses on promoting transparency?
The transparency and the fight against corruption are among the main values of UDH, so we are totally aligned with any effort to promote these values. The Open Government Alliance brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, it is necessary to include representatives of governments and civil society organizations.
Are you looking to have more exchange programs with overseas universities?
We would like to work jointly with other universities so that our professors research with other bodies. We need to join forces and have access to the experience and strength found in other universities. At present, the universities in Ecuador work separately; collaborating with other universities gives people different perspectives. I love the fact that our students go to places like China and the UK and experience other visions and ideas. We seek to have master's programs in energy, environmental issues, and innovation. Universities have to lead change in such fields in Ecuador. It is important to address, for example, the shortage of nurses in Ecuador by starting a project for nursing training.
What are your ambitions for the coming two years?
Our strongest interest is humanities, though I would also like to introduce engineering programs, such as environmental engineering, and have 10-15 classrooms with cutting-edge future technology. Also, we would like to see our graduates work more internationally and build a stronger alumni network. Furthermore, we would like to open a campus in a different city, which is not possible under the current regulations; however, the laws are changing and we are in discussions to address these reforms.