Valencia is an international city, but some institutions are more international than others; and right up there at the top of the Valencian world wide web is the UPV, the Valencia Polytechnic University, which since 1971 has been a symbol and a centre of Valencian innovation, creativity and vision.
Like the UPV, its Rector Francisco Mora is also a man of the world, and working in different environments in Valencia, Spain and the world, has always been a part of his career and his outlook.
Although born in Elche, he studied secondary school with the Salesianos in Alicante, where an excellent teacher (there are one or two of us around) nurtured his interest in engineering, and especially electro magneticism and electricity, and influenced his decision to study a telecommunications engineering degree.
As this was not possible at the time in Alicante, he studied his degree in Barcelona, and on finishing his degree, completed his tour of eastern Spain by accepting a teaching and research job in Valencia at UPV in 1991.
However, before that he had already had a first international experience in France, where as an Erasmus student he combined studies in Brest with work experience in Toulouse.
The French he learnt there set him up for his first serious bilingual experience when between 1993 and 1997 he formed part of the project to build the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, collaborating on the project which built the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. There he spent his days trying not to blow up the world in English, the lab language, and his free time speaking French.
Our conversation took place in English in fact, and the only word that Francisco struggled with was ‘blister’, (we were swapping experiences about the Camino de Santiago), a word which was probably not very frequently called for at CERN.
At UPV internationalisation has high priority, and there are a number of high priority international projects in motion.
One of them is the collaboration with the University of Berkley, California, with whom they are collaborating on a joint Masters programme. Another is UPV’s involvement in the European Union Horizon 2020 project, through which they hope to develop their internal strategy so as to be involved in more EU projects.
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the ‘Innovation Union’, an initiative aimed at “securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Running from 2014 to 2020 with an €80 billion budget, the programme for research and innovation is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe”.
On the eastern horizon is UPV’s collaboration with Hong Kong University, which should be in place in or around October 2013 and which will involve joint degree courses and exchanges of students and professors.
The long standing collaboration with Latin America will continue, with interesting projects, among others, related to bio-diversity, bearing in mind that UPV’s Agronomy Faculty is one of the best in the world.
In collaboration with the American Embassy in Spain, the ‘American Space’, was inaugurated in April 2013 by the American ambassador. The office in the UPV Language Centre is designed to foment greater understading between the Spanish and American peoples and is the first of its kind in Spain.
On a more general note, one of Francisco Mora’s concerns will be to promote the entrepreneurial spirit among UPV students so as to make them more employable in a world where starting your own business is becoming a safer, and certainly more challenging option than working for a large employer.
With the laws of supply and demand becoming increasingly important in the academic world it is perhaps not surprising to note a downturn in student interest in construction-related degrees or in architecture, whereas aerospace engineers graduating from UPV have achieved a 100% employment record.
Another surprise is the discovery that the Fine Arts Faculty, normally an anomaly in a scientific university, has come into its own with the increased importance being given to creativity and design. A recent exhibition organised by the Fine Arts and Computer Science faculties demonstrated that artistic science projects like video games have a promising future, which impressed even the ‘classical’ visitors from Madrid’s El Prado Museum.
Foreign languages (and especially English thank God!) are of course crucial at UPV, and the idea is to reach a point where between 80 and 90% of Masters courses are taught in English, and then focus on Batchelor degrees, where some subjects are already taught in the tongue of Newton and Faraday.
Inevitably the conversation turned to football and, like David Beckham, Francisco Mora continues to resist each year the ticking of the clock and the temptation to hang up his boots, still playing in a seven a side Polytechnic team one evening a week. A man cannot live on science alone.