Since last Thursday, Gran Canaria businesswoman Ana Suárez is the new president of the Social Council of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC). In this interview she explains her goals, including improving public-private collaboration.
–She is the first woman president of the Social Council…
–It has taken a while, but I think it is given more importance outside the Social Council. It is normal, it is what is happening in society, where we increasingly have a female presence at all levels. The important thing is not the relevance of the person or whether they are a woman or a man, but the work that is done. But yes, many women at this university have been happy and I thank them for that.
–Was it difficult for you to say yes?
–I was already in the plenary session and was vice president during the time of Jesús León Lima. But it was really a challenge because I think it is important to have someone from the business world at the university. But I thought about it a little, because of course, personally you also have priorities, I can’t neglect the company. But I think it is compatible. That I have a great team within the Social Council and that it is not only a job of the president but of the entire team.
–At his inauguration he demanded “more and better public-private collaboration.” What does that mean?
–The university is public. It was created promoted by society 35 years ago and depends on financing from the budgets of the Government of the Canary Islands. But it also does work for society. There is a public part and a private part. I believe that this must be promoted because the connection that can exist between the public and the private is what produces the best results at all levels. In matters of economic profitability and social well-being, if we are all aligned and work on the same line, it is better. There is a problem of lack of connection because many times everyone goes their own way because they are in their area for different reasons. The government system that universities have, for example, due to the way in which they are managed. Many times one does not look outside and those who are outside do not look inside either. Each one is in their reality and sometimes what you have to do is unite them. Within the university there are great lines of research, there are great professionals from the academic and training world. And much of it is not known outside and this university, on many occasions, is not aware of the reality that exists outside and of the problems that exist in society and in the real economy, and that sometimes we have to provide a solution or anticipate. It is also necessary to connect with the problem, with day-to-day life, with the situation that exists at a social and economic level in the Canary Islands.
«We have to detect profiles that allow us to diversify the activity on our islands»
President of the Social Council of the ULPGC
–He also said that the degrees should be adapted to demand. But tourism prevails here…
–We have tourism and many other sectors that also work with tourism, that is, we have industrial sectors, transportation, connectivity, logistics, health, education… services that seem to have nothing to do with it and do have a lot to do with it. For example, when a tourist comes, he values having a series of services, good healthcare, good connectivity, good accommodation. Because when we think about tourism we focus on the most accommodation part, but it is much more. We have to give an answer to everyone. Provide support to our main economic engine and also be able to propose other profiles that allow us to diversify activity on our islands as much as possible. New niches emerge, new possible sectors of potential future growth, because we have to detect it and be able to start creating actions for the future, for what is going to come to us in a few years. The university system, as it exists today, has a significant level of bureaucracy and is complex. It can take years to implement new degrees when we really have to be agile. That is where a review must be made, not only in this university, it is a review of the university system. Having a filter is necessary, but procedures can also be simplified and made more operational so that they adapt to the needs of society. The way in which the university is governed, for example, is decided by those who have an interest within it, but there is no type of consultation outside the university. The main resources of this university come from society through the public budgets of the Government of the Canary Islands, since society should have an opinion and influence what it believes is most appropriate.
–Wouldn’t that be reducing university independence?
–Anything that enhances the presence of society is good. I think that the Social Council has greater powers is good for the university, in conscience I believe it. We are people from all walks of life, we have a magnificent team, a magnificent plenary session. Also a great administrative service staff and at a technical level, too. A plenary session where there are all sensitivities, all political colors, all areas linked to the university, and outside the university. And where we are all involved, because what interests us is continuous improvement and responding to social demand.
«I think that the Social Council has greater powers is good for the university»
President of the Social Council of the ULPGC
–With a bigger budget?
–We have an annual budget when we have a framework of programs that are multi-year. That generates uncertainty about how you will be able to face the future. We should at least have a framework, at least a minimum, of reference to work on in the following years. And that is where, let’s say, it is necessary, I believe, because of past experience that there have been program contracts that are necessary. And I believe that the Government is involved, that is what the counselor has told me. I understand that work is being done on a multi-year funding framework for universities and well, that is something that is going to be positive. But we also have to do an exercise of internal reflection and see if we still have some way to go and improve the efficiency of services.
–Do you think private universities are a threat?
–This is also part of what I call more and better public-private collaboration. The private part is never the enemy of the public part. It is complementary. At the university level, I believe that that is why we have to work together. I think it is a mistake to see that the private is the enemy of the public. Seeing that with a certain shortsightedness. Sometimes we blame others when we have to criticize ourselves. If private universities are growing, if they have a greater number of students, we must reflect and see why. In some cases, they adapt more quickly to needs, because they do not have the bureaucracy and slowness of public ones. They detect certain market niches that, perhaps, are not so easy in the public sector. But you can work together. I really liked seeing that there are degrees that are shared between public universities in order to optimize resources and why can’t it happen between public and private universities? The fact that private universities have been introduced somehow favors competition and that is good for moving forward.
This news article has been translated from the original language to English by WorldsNewsNow.com.
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