We are only a few weeks out from the 29th Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition in Seville. Seville is the capital of Andalusia, where international education is a top priority – so much so that it is one of the most sought-after destinations in the Erasmus programme. As a professional in international higher education, take a moment to learn more about your field as it relates to the history of higher education in Southern Spain. Today’s blog gives us a glimpse into Andalusia’s 500-year old university system just in time for next month’s conference.
Knowledge for all
For decades, Andalusia has built a public university system based on one clear premise: knowledge only has real value if everyone can access it. Fairness and equality of opportunities have allowed this region in the south of Spain to have the second largest student community in the country. Over 200,000 people study undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral degrees here every year.
The origin of this system dates back around 500 years. At that time, two universities were founded in the cities of Seville and Granada, and since then they have grown into two of the most prestigious institutions in the world.
To spread higher education throughout the whole of society, more recently universities have been founded in the region’s eight provinces, along with Andalusia’s own International University (UNIA), which seeks to forge links with Europe, North Africa, Latin America and the rest of the world.
Working together for the students
In total, Andalusia has ten public universities. Although they are all independent and follow their own strategies, they work in close collaboration to offer students and society as a whole the best possible service. Major decisions are reached by working together, and these institutions are constantly launching shared projects where all are involved.
One such project is the single access system, which allows students wishing to study in the region to submit just one application, stating their preferences in terms of subjects and universities. Places are then allocated (over 70,000 new places annually) based on the candidates’ academic merit.
Another example of this cohesion between universities are the Campuses of International Excellence, a project that involves public entities and leading companies in Andalusia. These projects pool teaching and research resources along with infrastructures in order to promote specialisation in areas such as biotechnology, ICTs, biodiversity, agro-industry, marine resources and historical heritage.
These initiatives offer students joint qualifications delivered across several universities, providing flexible training according to preference and the best teachers regardless of their affiliated institution.
An attractive opportunity
These values, accompanied by the culture, geography and the warm and sunny climate enjoyed year round, have made Andalusia a leading destination within international student mobility programmes. Every year, thousands of Erasmus students choose this region to expand their knowledge and improve their language skills, seizing the opportunity to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is thanks to all of them, acting as the best ambassadors upon returning home, that Andalusia is still one of the most sought-after destinations in this programme.
Universities in Andalusia are also active in attracting students from other parts of the world, such as Latin America, the USA and Canada, and increasingly from Asia. Andalusian campuses are home to a diverse and multicultural community, hugely enriching university life and the surrounding cities.
Maintaining and increasing the quality of university teaching undoubtedly requires a firm commitment to the generation of new knowledge. Following Spain’s transition to a democratic system, Andalusia was the first region to launch its own science strategy. Back then, just as it is now, research and development and innovation were seen as necessary tools to foster social and economic progress.
The development of this scientific policy has allowed Andalusia to triple its investment in research and innovation, making it one of Spain’s top three regions in terms of the allocation of material and human resources to this task. In 2016, for the first time, it topped the leader board in terms of patent applications in Spain, pulling ahead of Madrid and Catalonia, both of which boast greater industrial development. The great work carried out in universities has undoubtedly contributed to this achievement, and Andalusian universities hold a strong place on the international intellectual property register.
Tools for transformation
Andalusia’s firm belief in an open and accessible system of higher education, present throughout the length and breadth of this region, has become the most valuable tool for transformation. There is an increasingly close bond between university researchers and enterprises, geared towards fostering knowledge creation in certain areas and finding solutions to the problems that hamper improved growth in the productive sector.
International access for all
Higher education that is within everyone’s reach has marked a turning point in terms of business creation. In contrast to just a few years ago, today the majority of entrepreneurs have a university education. These are people who develop strong value-added projects with international knowledge, experience and vision. Their work is bringing a fresh new approach to traditional areas such as tourism and agriculture and is opening up new fields in biotechnology, computing and renewable energies.
Andalusia believes in universities as valuable institutions, capable of offering people the opportunity to harness all their talent. That is why it has committed itself to a university system that is prevalent throughout the region, with autonomy but a strong level of cohesion, so that students can enjoy conditions of quality and equality. It is Andalusia’s abiding belief that the future of the region is only possible if everyone gives their very best.
Left wishing you could be an international student all over again? You can be, if only for a day, at the EAIE Conference in Seville. Check out the Campus Experience options in the programme to learn more about Spanish higher education and add a tour to your registration today. Make sure you also add the first session of the week to your schedule for an Introduction to higher education in Spain.
Dolores Ferre-Cano is General Director of Universities, Regional Government of Andalusia.