During his visit to Tenerife, he has met with the mayors of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Orotava, where the European University of the Canary Islands has headquarters. How have these meetings developed?
The first thing we have done is talk about La Palma because we want to help. We are very aware of the issue and we have enabled a series of scholarships for students from La Palma, to offer material and psychological help. Many people are suffering. We have also met with the mayors of La Orotava and Santa Cruz de Tenerife to explain what our project is and above all because we want to have the municipalities in which we are located, which are very important to us.
Have you presented news within the European University of the Canary Islands?
I find the development of the Canary Islands very interesting because the Islands have left seasonal tourism behind and the occupancy rates are already very similar throughout the year, which is good for us. We are also making efforts to attract professionals who work from the Canary Islands because the Islands are an ideal place to live, and as these professionals are usually high-level, they bring wealth. We think that this circle would be better closed with stronger universities in the Canary Islands because the university produces talent. If we add professional activity to hotel activity, also from the government, we will be able to receive more talent and that would make the Canary Islands a kind of knowledge hub; something very interesting. The Islands are a European region with a high quality of life, making it a very attractive area. But surprisingly, the Canary Islands still have few foreign students, although the European university system is common and a degree in the Canary Islands is valid in 46 other countries. However, there are only 6% of foreign students in the Canarian university system, while the private university in the Islands has 10%. In Madrid we are better, with 42% of foreign students this year.
Is precisely the challenge for the next decade in the Canary Islands to attract foreign talent or do they have other challenges?
I would highlight three challenges. The first is the attraction of foreign students in order to attract talent. The foreigner who comes will already be a Canarian all his life because he will have spent a very important moment in his life in the Islands. On the other hand, there is the expansion in the offer of careers, especially in Health Sciences, which are in great demand throughout the world and the Canary Islands also have good conditions to have a campus in this area. We are authentic experts in this sector and more than 50% of our students nationwide are pursuing careers in Health Sciences. We believe that transferring that to the Canary Islands will be a great push because there is no doubt that any national student will come to study Medicine if we offer it here. In addition, all this benefits the local system, primary and specialized care, and encourages research.
He comments on the need to attract foreign students, but at what point is mobility within the national territory?
We also want to encourage it. A modern university thrives on students who come from anywhere. We already have 25% of non-Canarian students of the almost 2,000 who study at the European University of the Canary Islands. That is the line to follow because this is a great place to study. Before it was more complicated but now all titles are approved. But to attract students, a key issue must be taken into account: classes must be in English or at least bilingual. We cannot expect a foreign student to learn Spanish first, and that is a challenge of the Canarian system and that other Autonomous Communities have already overcome.
Facing this second decade in the Canary Islands, do you plan to expand your headquarters in the Islands?
Our commitment is with our students and with society and we channel that through the people who have always helped us. La Orotava has always supported us and we want to continue to be and grow in this municipality. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the same. The mayor has shown great interest in expanding our facilities in the capital because he wants to have a strong university campus. I do not know if in the future we will be able to jump to other islands but for now we are going to concentrate where we already are and grow in new areas of knowledge. We work thinking about what we can contribute to the Canary Islands from the point of view of knowledge.
To expand the offer of degrees, to what extent do you take into account the proposals made by those who will be your future students?
They always ask us what are the professions of the future. That is a totally wrong question because in the future people will change professions more than once. What we must instill in people is the desire to learn, the idea that we are a learning society and we have to improve throughout our lives so that when it comes time to change, we can do it several times.
Within this trend of continuing to expand the offer, are you considering having shorter courses that allow professionals to recycle?
Universities in the Spanish system not only have the opportunity to offer careers or masters but shorter courses and we are working on this new concept with short specialization courses. Great professionals need to retrain with one-month courses. That is the agility that universities have to gain and for that you have to be very in touch with society and with the professions.
To finish training students, contact with companies is also necessary. In that sense, what relationship do they have with the Canary Islands?
There is a lot of relationship. We do not graduate students who have not done internships. We always ask ourselves what we would like a student to know when they graduate and we always say: that they know what they did not know, that they have had contact with the profession they are going to carry out, internationality so that they know that they belong to a world much greater than the one they are They can see and be aware of the social dimension to know what the great current challenges are.
Canarian public universities maintain that preferential treatment is given to private ones on some occasions and that this is reflected in the fact that they receive the approval of a greater number of new degrees. What would you say to public institutions?
At the risk of being incorrect, this is a very Canarian controversy. It has happened in other places but it is already solved. In most territories the systems are mixed and work is carried out in coordination so that each one develops a fundamental role. The public university has a very great social function because it is the social elevator for the middle class and fulfills the task of reaching all citizens; encourages research, something that is priceless and that has all our recognition. The private university complements the system, brings innovation, dynamism, agility and contact with the professions. When both universities work together and in coordination they are making a bigger and better system. In the Islands, if we work well, there will be many more Canarian students in the university and we will be creating and attracting more talent. If we compete and argue, we are doing no one a favor. The public university in the Canary Islands has to make an effort to understand that we must go hand in hand and create a mixed system. We must work together for the good of society and students.