Serra appeals to the “unity” of all to promote the social projection of the University
«In moments like the one that La Palma is experiencing, or like in the pandemic that we are leaving behind, we can see the true strength of public university institutions, which have dedicated many years to research, to provide answers when required. It is also shown that the meager resources devoted to promoting university R&D from public administrations and private funders should be seen for what they are: an investment for the future instead of an expense ”.
“In crises, you can see the true strength of public universities, to provide answers”
This was stated during his speech at the official opening ceremony of the academic year 2021-2022 of the ULPGC, held yesterday in the Auditorium of the institutional headquarters, where he was accompanied at the presidential table by the President of the Canary Islands Government Ángel Víctor Torres – who valued the role of science in crises, pointing out as an example having been able to count on a vaccine in record time, in the same year of confinement-; as well as the rector of the University of La Laguna Rosa Aguilar, the president of the Social Council Jesús León Lima and the general secretary of the ULPGC Inmaculada González.
“The quality of teaching and research depends on adequate funding”
Serra highlighted to those present, members of the university community, as well as authorities from the political, academic, military, religious, social and cultural fields, his fear that the inclusion of private universities in the Canary Islands would reduce the teaching quality of public universities. In this regard, he assured that maintaining teaching and research quality depends on adequate funding from public universities “but also on maintaining clear rules of the game”, in reference to the significant increase in private universities on the Spanish university map.
The main concern is given by the possibility that private centers compete with public universities for particularly scarce resources in the Canarian productive fabric. “This is the case of student internship positions, thus indirectly putting our teaching quality at risk. It is evident that these universities have social, economic and media support, but we cannot and must not allow this support to be expressed from our own institution, for which it will be necessary to establish codes of ethical behavior and avoid conflicts of interest in decision-making ».
“May our voice be heard in decision-making on R & D & I policy in the Canary Islands”
As an example, he cited the new degree in Medicine in the Canary Islands that a private university intends to implement. “This would not only harm public universities, but would also create problems of inequity in access to the degree most demanded by young people, and would put even more pressure on the scarce resources available, such as internships and the attention of qualified trainers and motivated. In addition, it contrasts with the socially supportive solution that the Canarian public universities are negotiating with the Ministry of Health, for the increase in the number of Medicine places by 50, to contribute to a better Canarian health system ”.
“The implantation in the private Medicine would create problems of inequity in access to the degree”
In the academic field, the rector highlighted the commitment to return to face-to-face classes in the current academic year 2021-2022 – “we have been the Spanish public university that has led this return to class” -, and the “responsible and exemplary” behavior of the students. And from the point of view of research and knowledge transfer, Serra Majem claimed the role of the ULPGC as the largest agent of innovation, scientific production and technological traction in the eastern islands. “We will seek for this role to be recognized, thus ensuring that our voice is heard in decision-making processes on R & D & I policy in the Canary Islands”, and added that “scientific institutions are called to be a driving force behind front row, together with businessmen and other social agents, in the creation of a new productive fabric based on knowledge. Good proof of this is that we are already creating very high quality direct and indirect employment.
“University research resources are an investment in the future rather than an expense”
Highlighting the goal of the ULPGC government team to work with empathy and rigor, Serra appealed to the unity and commitment of all members of the university community to promote the external image and social projection of the ULPGC. «Let us give way to the debates and the necessary discrepancy in the pertinent areas and let us all push the University of Las Palmas in the direction of progress; We do not lend ourselves to ill-considered criticism that could undermine the prestige of the institution.
The rector also appealed to public institutions so that the Canary Islands cease to be in the last positions of investment in R&D, “and that the strenuous effort that the Government of the Canary Islands is making to increase the funds allocated to Education (5 % increase) have a proportional impact on the financing of public universities ”, at the same time that he called for greater involvement of the councils in aspects such as support for students and researchers in training. “We are aware that the problems that afflict us not only depend on financing; aging and in some cases unmotivated staff, lack of laboratory technicians and administrative staff, and a bureaucratic management burden that removes all of them from what should be their main functions. All these aspects should lead us to a deep reflection to find a way to solve them. I would not like them to leave here with the idea that we are asking them for money or privileges. I offer them commitment and our help and collaboration, “he told policy makers, emphasizing the objective of rowing together with the University of La Laguna” to improve our presence in decision-making bodies for teaching and research policies, “he concluded.
La Palma, at the heart of the event
La Palma was very present at the opening of the 2021-2022 course of the ULPGC held yesterday. The rector, Lluís Serra, opened his speech with a memory of the people who suffer the consequences of the eruption, and started the applause of those present for those who collaborate to reduce the effects of this tragedy, among which many university scientists are included. Just as he began, Serra concluded his speech with a loving message to La Palma and to all the victims, including members of the university community. «At this moment we are all La Palma. Let us commit ourselves to trying to alleviate their suffering. The president of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, also had words of encouragement with La Palma at the end of the act, pointing out that “the two Canarian universities have placed themselves on the side of the Palmer university students” and assured them that “they will be able to continue with their higher studies even though they have lost all their resources. The musical nod was given by the singers Thania Gil and Raquel Amagashe accompanied by the Ocho Islas quartet, who sang Palmero rises to La Palma and Isla Bonita. | MJH