We will create a better university by cultivating research and teaching

Josep-Eladi Baños Díez (Sabadell, 1958) is a Doctor of Medicine and Professor of Pharmacology at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF). He has been the new rector of the UVic-UCC since 17 December, after being chosen by the Board of Trustees of the FUB and receiving the support of 79.4% of the University Senate. He aims to make the University into a benchmark for how to teach in the twenty-first century, and to foster research and teaching to achieve a “better university.”

What sort of reception have you had, and how do you feel at the UVic-UCC?

My impression has been very positive, which I mentioned in my inauguration speech. I've found a university that is very open to collaboration. I got the same impression from the Board of Governors, with the people I decided would continue, and I am glad about the decision I made because I'm very happy in my work. I've also had a very positive reception from the other University institutions. Our relationships are very civil. They have helped me in the difficult transition involved in coming to a new institution and beginning to understand it, which is what worried me most. I've had a great deal of experience at universities, first at the UAB and then at the UPF. I knew that the UVic-UCC was different in terms of its characteristics, and I've had the chance to see them for myself over the last few weeks. The result is very positive and I'm very pleased to have come here.

"I've found a University that is very open to collaboration (...) They have helped me in the difficult transition involved in coming to a new institution and beginning to understand it"

So are you happy with your decision?

Yes, I said at the time that it was a decision I had considered very carefully, because it involved leaving a situation where I had some degree of professional comfort to undertake a new adventure, and when you start an adventure you never know how things will turn out... but over these first weeks, the feelings have been very good.

What are the first changes the community will notice?

I'll make an effort to give the community the opportunity to see me relatively often. It's early days yet, and I'm still getting to know the faculties, the studies, the teaching staff, the management bodies of the administration and services professionals, working out how to organise my diary between Vic and Manresa... After I've become familiar with this environment, actions will follow, which will involve establishing levels of collaboration between the faculties, setting up a programme that I've mentioned in the past, which is an enhancement of the CIFE as it is now, considered as an important unit for the University, which needs to expand at the level of competences. Another area I'll be working on in the coming months will be reviewing all the bachelor's degree programmes that have difficulties with registrations, and seeing what we can do to solve that problem. Then there's another area that is not part of everyday business, but one we're working on because it's very important; it concerns improving our funding, and as you know, that's an important issue for the University.

Would you like to outline the most important challenges facing universities? What are they? Are we ready to face them at the UVic-UCC?

There are many challenges, and any list I gave you would not be exhaustive and I'd be leaving some out. I believe there are two important challenges. One is considering how the way we teach is appropriate for society in the twenty-first century; this is a recurring issue, but I think it's particularly important. A second issue that is important to me is the relationship that there needs to be between teaching and research and the mutual recognition between them. What can we do at the UVic-UCC? I think that some things have already been done in the first area. Some experiences are already in place, as far as I know, which means it is a question of establishing a general policy at the University to make it possible. A University that is more focused on the student, a University that as well as knowledge, provides competences that enable students to learn by themselves, or as some people have put it, to train learning professionals - people who are able to learn throughout their entire life. That is the important contribution that we could make, as over four years we won't be training someone for their entire professional life, particularly in a constantly changing world. I'd say that the UVic-UCC is ready to do this, it is big enough to do it, it has the lecturers and the motivation, and now it needs it all to be taken forwards by the management of the University.

"We need to train learning professionals, people who are able to learn throughout their entire life"

As for the other issue, the University was established almost as a college, focusing almost exclusively on teaching, and that is no longer the case. It hasn't been the case for some years, and research has increased substantially, with some centres that are particularly renowned. The Rector's Office must support this policy, but it must always make it compatible with teaching. The Rector's Office must be concerned with and work towards promoting teaching, just as research is being promoted. I have often said that we will create a better University by cultivating both areas. In addition, I would add an issue that has sometimes been overlooked, which introducing research as a pedagogical area in bachelor's degree programmes. Students should be able to undertake increasingly complex research projects, until they finish off the course with the final year project, but the application and the skills they pick up from research projects should benefit from the logic of both areas.

How do you see the territorial aspect of the University, and its role as an institution that enhances its area of influence?

This role is absolutely central. While in other respects we are just one university among many within the Catalan university system, in terms of regional influence our situation is very different. In the region of central Catalonia, or inland Catalonia, our University's presence could lead to collaborations in bachelor's degree programmes, but above all on postgraduate courses and lifelong learning, which could provide links between all the regional capitals involved and the University. How can this be established? I can tell you that in a few weeks’ time, after I've visited the mayors and I've found out their areas of interest and seen how the University can deal with them.

"The University's role as an agent that enhances its region is absolutely central"

Let's consider the situation in four years' time. What will teaching and research at the UVic-UCC look like?

Whenever I'm asked a question about the future, Martin Luther King's quote of I have a dream, referring to racial integration in the USA, always comes to mind. And what is that dream? I would like the University to have made progress on the consolidation of degree courses in four years’ time; I'd be pleased if with great care and consideration, a new bachelor's degree course could be added; I'd like to see the consolidation of our student-centred teaching model, and in general, for it to be another reason to come to the University, a justification to come here to study. Furthermore, I would also like some recognition for lecturers' teaching work, recognition for good teaching in the same way that good research is recognised.

I see research in terms of the consolidation of the current groups, and some groups being enhanced by attracting researchers who want to come here to work. There are many highly qualified young people who we must be capable of appealing to and attracting them to come here. Another aspect would involve highlighting the unique nature of our research, which is different from the research done at metropolitan universities, but this is no longer a dream, but instead is already a reality, as is the case with the BETA group. But there must be other groups in addition to that one, and I have no doubt that this will be the case.