The Business Year

Miguel R. Fiallo Calderón

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Health & Education

Agents of Change

President, UNPHU


Miguel R. Fiallo Calderón became rector of the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henrí­quez Ureña (UNPHU) in 2005, and has worked tirelessly to ensure its gradual but stable growth. He also serves as Vice-Treasurer of Fundación Universitaria Dominicana Pedro Henrí­quez Ureña (FUDPHU). He has recently been awarded for his contribution to education by the New York State Assembly, and became a representative of the Inter-American Universities Organization in 2012. In addition to his teaching in a range of Dominican universities, he also cofounded the Diseños, Proyectos y Contrucciones and Fiallo, Rodriguez y Asociados companies.

"Our graduates are the best PR agents the university and the country could ask for in the international arena."

What is the history of the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henrí­quez Ureña (UNPHU)?

We were the first private university in Santo Domingo, as well as one of the oldest universities in the city. UNPHU was established in 1966 after breaking away from the State University during a time when there was a lack of higher education options, especially those without political or religious links. Today, we are run as a non-profit organization with strong support from a group of businessmen. We can proudly say that currently there are more than 30,000 graduates of UNPHU, and our strongest departments are medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, engineering, agronomy, and architecture (the first in the Dominican Republic), among others. In fact, our graduate architects have considerably contributed to transforming the urban landscape of the country. Thanks to established international agreements, our medicine, veterinary, and dentistry students take their exams in the US, which enables them to work professionally both there and in Puerto Rico. In this context, I would say that one of our strongest competitive advantages as a higher education institution is the array of international agreements we have with other universities. We have a strong focus on the US, but also in Mexico and Europe; for example, in Spain, we have agreements with the medicine faculty of the University of Seville and the architecture department of the University of Barcelona, among many others. As part of this internationalization process, we also have to comply with high standards, and many agencies and universities we have partnerships with come to visit our premises to ensure that we meet the required educational standards. We currently have seven faculties (architecture, health sciences, education, science and technology, social sciences, law, and economics), with around 450 professors and 7,140 students.

What are the core values and missions of the university?

At UNPHU we train students to become capable of becoming agents of change in the country. Our high academic standards and the recognition of our graduates demonstrate our strong commitment to society. Our mission is to contribute to the sustainable development and improvement of society through the education we provide to graduate students who are competitive in their fields and committed to innovation. Our values include academic excellence, responsibility, integrity, ethics, equality, social and environmental commitment, and diversity.

“Our graduates are the best PR agents the university and the country could ask for in the international arena.”

How does UNPHU contribute to strengthening the country’s image abroad?

Our graduates are the best PR agents the university and the country could ask for in the international arena. Also, through our partnerships with international universities and the varied academic research we carry out, especially in the medical field, we are making important contributions to foreigners’ understanding of the nation. The country and its tertiary education sector are currently undergoing a process of opening up to the world, so it is a heady time to be involved.

What role does research and innovation play in the development of your institution?

It is a key element in our development; the main pillars of our growth and expansion at the moment are internationalization, innovation, and research. We prioritize strengthening our research focus, as we understand how vital it is for universities to expand their profiles and reputation. For example, we have an estate outside Santo Domingo with a small farm and investigation units, which is where many of our students carry out field research.

Where does the university find the necessary funding for that development?

Crucially, we receive private donations from businessmen. In addition, we also apply for state grants dedicated to research after the government created a grant scheme for universities to strengthen their research departments. Fortunately, the government is aware of the need to boost research and it increases the budget every year. At the moment, we have six ongoing research projects run with state funds. At the same time, we have a foundation that sponsors the university and is very active in searching for potential investors.

What is the average profile of your students?

Of our 7,100 students, around 30% of them enjoy scholarships due to the lack of sufficient funds to access higher education and their strong academic qualifications. Also, we have middle to upper class students in our university, providing a perfect mix of students in an academic environment. There are over 70 foreign students at UNPHU right now, mainly from the US and Spain, and we expect to increase such figures in the years to come.

What are the main plans for the near future?

We have many plans, as the university is a very active and dynamic social agent. I believe one of the biggest challenges ahead of us is to make sure professors have a better understanding of the academic power of new technologies. We must also continue providing high educational standards so we can make sure our graduates are ready to take on the world. We know of their importance in the continued development of the university, and we always try to keep close links with them once they graduate, especially in terms of becoming potential professors and lecturers. Finally, we also have some plans to expand our student body to approximately 8,000, as well as extend our campus.

What is your outlook for the development of the Dominican higher education sector in the coming years?

I think that both government and society have come to understand that the engine that will power their development is education. Today, the authorities, the private sector, and the universities are facing the same situation. I can feel for the first time ever a common feeling between all social agents to push education to the forefront of our development and prioritize education over other sectors. For example, the sector’s budget today represents 4% of the country’s GDP, but a couple of years ago it represented only 2%. In this context, there are already talks with a view to adopting a national plan on education, and the government allocates more funds every year to provide scholarships both in the country and abroad, and to encourage universities to expand their course portfolio and train future teachers and professors. However, we must keep one thing in mind: we won’t see the results of such efforts in the short term.

© The Business Year – November 2013



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