“We work so that the students of La Palma do not have to give up university”

The rector of the University of La Laguna, Rosa Aguilar, assured this Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the academic year that they are already working so that “none of the students of La Palma have to give up the university.” Likewise, it has asked the President of the Government of the Canary Islands for his direct involvement in the approval of the new Bachelor’s degree in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, which has been blocked so far by the regional executive despite the great social demand and the support of the school. professional of the sector.

Aguilar recounted the succession of events that lead to ask Ángel Víctor Torres for his direct mediation in this conflict, given that the academic center has complied with all the steps established for its approval and, so far, it has not been the case. The rector pointed out that she has the agreement of the governing bodies of the university, a demand more than verified, the express support of the Official College of Physical Education and Sports Professionals of the Canary Islands and the agreement of the two rectors of the Canarian universities in their implementation, given that the number of applications received by the ULPGC for this degree is much higher than the number of places on offer.

“In summary”, added the rector, “there is social and labor demand, there is consensus among universities and even the professional college sees it as pertinent and appropriate. So where is the problem? I ask you, Mr. President, to take this matter out of your hand, as I know you intend to do, and fix this incomprehensible mess. The university students do not understand insular lawsuits, nor are we interested in the least, “he said.

In an auditorium with restricted capacity, the rector had a moment of remembrance for the students of La Palma, showing solidarity with him and commenting that a call for aid of more than 300,000 euros has been opened so that those affected by the volcanic eruption do not abandon their studies, while congratulating the president of the regional government for his leadership and empathy in this tragedy.

Aguilar made equality the central theme of his speech, beginning with Afghan women who, in his opinion, have been left to their own devices. He recalled at this point that the Conference of Rectors has requested that urgent measures be adopted to ensure the life and academic trajectory of university professors, researchers, students and members of civil society in Afghanistan.

Research for human development

The rector’s address was preceded by the reading of the summary of the academic report by the general secretary, Elvira Afonso, a document whose full version can be downloaded here. This was followed by the now traditional inaugural lecture by Professor Víctor Sotero García Martín, on the advances in synthetic organic chemistry and what this essential science has meant for humanity.

The researcher carried out a review of the evolution of his discipline, citing as a fundamental fact the accidental discovery made by Wöhler in 1838, who managed to synthesize urea and, in this way, showed that, contrary to what was believed until then, it was not necessary the action of a living being to manufacture molecules and began the path of chemistry and organic synthesis as a scientific discipline.

The speaker reviewed some milestones in this area, paying special attention to the chemistry of natural products, that is, obtaining molecules with different types of properties obtained from living beings. This practice has made it possible to obtain such common and essential drugs as acetyl salicylic acid or penicillin, and it underwent a great development since the Second World War.

Sotero ended with a future prospecting, indicating that many of the future problems will have to find their solution in chemistry, although he recognized that under this discipline today it is already “a distant relative of chemistry 50 years ago.” For this reason, he advocated to continue betting on research as the basis of human development: “As a higher educational center, we are responsible for instilling this fundamental idea in the new generations.” And to reinforce that idea, he concluded by quoting the researcher Frances Arnold: “Learn as much as you can and combine your knowledge in a new way. Adapt, be flexible and learn permanently ”.

University based on real events

The rector emphasized in her speech that this is a university based on real events, as stated in the motto of one of its latest promotional campaigns. He recalled that it is the only center in the Canary Islands and the ten in Spain that meets the requirements of the Ministry of Universities to be considered as such, given its wide catalog of degrees, its high scientific productivity and the stability of its teaching staff, which it does not in any way exceed the 40% interim set as a ceiling in the royal decree.

He also mentioned the recent approval of the Statutes of the academic center, a text that had not been updated for 17 years after several unsuccessful attempts. He explained the drafting process was carried out with a broad consensus among all cloistered groups, and pointed out that the only divergence that has occurred has been relative to the regime of examination sessions, in which an intermediate solution has finally been chosen, which It does not subtract exam options from the students, but it does modify the arrangement of the tests during the year, to better adjust it to the organization of the university course.

Aguilar recalled all the benefits offered to students during the pandemic, to prevent the confinement situation from creating a digital divide. It was then that it was determined to automate many repetitive administrative processes that did not add value and that involved a large workload. “Now we know where we are in university management. Dashboards have been put in place that facilitate the monitoring of processes, we can know in real time if we are going to meet the deadlines, if the procedures are being executed on time and we have complete traceability of each one of them ”.

The rector welcomed the more than 80 professors who will join the academic center this year, and whose call for places comes from the university’s own funds. They will be joined by 36 more places that are currently being managed before proceeding to their call. “However, these incorporations do not cover the need for a workforce plan to cover the large number of retirements that will occur in the short term, and which represent a loss of talent and scientific leadership,” he added.

Rosa Aguilar once again insisted on the idea of ​​a useful university, since she has presented to the Government of the Canary Islands a document on the necessary transformation of the productive fabric supported by the use of intensive knowledge provided by universities, while highlighting the idea of ​​a Pact for R&D in the hands of the ULPGC, to increase investment in science within a specific period, which will increase the intelligence of the system and the productivity of the economy. Aguilar regretted that, so far, there has been no official response to these proposals.

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