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David Fernández Dávalos

MEXICO - Health & Education

Higher Learning

Rector, Universidad Iberoamericana (IBERO)


David Fernández Dávalos is Rector of the Universidad Iberoamericana. Born in Guadalajara in 1957, he has a degree in Philosophy and Social Sciences from the Free Institute of Philosophy, and the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies (ITESO) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a degree in theology by the College of Theological Studies, Mexico City, and a master’s in sociology from the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. From 1990 to 1994, he worked as founder and director of the Movement for Supporting Working and Street Children (MATRACA), and from 1994 to 1998 he was Director of the Miguel Agustí­n Pro Juárez Center for Human Rights, A.C. From July of 1998 to January of 2002 he has also served as rector of the Technological Institute and of Studies Superiors of the Occident (University ITESO) in Guadalajara. He has also served as a member of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, based in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 2000 to May 2012. Prior to his current position he was rector of the Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla.

“We cannot have 20th century teachers teaching 21st century students.“

What distinguishes IBERO’s approach to education from that of other institutions?

Our commitment to society is what sets us apart from other private universities. We contribute to solutions that are relevant to society, particularly the thought and formation of ethical and social values among our students. A second difference is that we have an integral approach to help form their will, values, intuition, and creativity, for example—aspects of life not usually valued in a market-oriented university. The third difference is that we value academic quality in our research, teaching, and relationship with society, companies, and the public and social sector.

Which programs have the highest demand?

Our main degrees are architecture, law, communications, and administration. As for postgraduate degrees, marketing, finance, public administration, and nutrition are the most popular.

How would you evaluate IBERO’s relationship with the private sector, and how does it satisfy the requirements of the labor market?

The connection with the private sector is still insufficient. We have to grow more. We recently created IBERO strategic consultants, offering consulting and connecting our teachers to the private sector, and having up-to-date professors and scholars. We have 50 or 60 contracts per year with the private sector in consulting and design. That is not a low number, but we still need to develop that area much more. We will also start a business school next year offering top-level programs, starting with an executive MBA.

How is IBERO’s relationship with other international institutions, and how is it perceived on an international level?

We are sending 600 students and receiving 250 students approximately from other universities each year. However, there is still room for growth. Our students are mostly going to the US, Spain, the UK, and Western Europe; the first two being the most important destinations. International students are coming mostly from France. They used to come in larger numbers from the US, but they come less so now. We are also receiving some students from Asia, mainly Japan. We have sought to strengthen our relationship with 200 Jesuit universities around the world. We are going to have an encounter with deans next year in order to benefit from this network, rather than with a region. In US, the most important ones are Georgetown, Fordham, University of San Francisco, Loyola University Chicago, and Marymount University. There is also Comillas in Spain and another in Tokyo.

What new programs will you open in the near future?

We will open an undergraduate program in actuarial science to fortify our capacity in mathematics. Also we are opening a postgraduate in migration studies with the University of San Francisco, and a PhD in Social Welfare with Boston College. This reflects our concern for social matters of international relevance.

How would you evaluate the role of technology within the global strategy of IBERO?

We understand that there are new ways of learning and producing knowledge that require technology, and thus we are at the forefront of the use of new educational technologies. It is strategic; we cannot have 20th century teachers teaching 21st century students.

According to OECD’s last PISA evaluation, Mexico occupies the last place. What has to be done to advance in this field and what role can the education reform play?

Firstly, education needs to become a public matter, not a matter of state. It has been used for social control; the matter has not been debated publicly but instead decided by small groups inside the government. This needs to be debated by the public and by private and social entities, communities, and families. Secondly, there has to be an in-depth reform that educates and incorporates new technologies and pedagogical and didactic assets. An indisputable condition is to incorporate the teachers into these reforms, which has not been done. The latest reform is authoritarian; therefore, teachers are rejecting it because it has not broken the logic of control and does not incorporate their practices and experiences.

What needs to be done to increase the number of Mexicans with advanced degrees?

President Peña Nieto has a goal of 40% coverage in higher education, which is unreachable. The main problem in higher education is financing; therefore, we need to allocate more resources to higher education. It is also necessary to invest in higher education with multi-year budgets that do not need to be negotiated by deans every year. It also means investing in existing public universities of greater prestige and quality, not creating new, small and low-quality state universities. That has to do with corruption.

How would you evaluate human capital and what is IBERO doing to develop it?

While we have problems teaching mathematics, which is reflected in our lack of engineers, others are coming to recruit engineers in Mexico. On the other hand, there are too many programs that are not required, such as law, psychology, communications, and medicine. We still need to strengthen technical careers in the country. In Eastern societies, for every bachelor there are two or three technicians; here for every six graduates we have a technician. There is a field of work there, but universities are still not contributing. At IBERO, we are strengthening our high-level technical programs. We have five now and will have eight in three more years. At present we have 500 students in these areas, but we intend to have at least 1,000. It also contributes to social mobility.

What is the role of education in fighting inequality and corruption?

Education is key to having a conscious, participatory citizenship that can control its rulers and hold them accountable. Only with a well-educated citizenship can this be achieved. Education cannot be exclusively professional and technical, we also have to form citizens. On the other hand, inclusion is built from the family, the schools, and even the churches, although sometimes these exclude and do not incorporate. It is important for us to have an inclusive, plural university that is respectful of different ways of being human and will contribute to a more democratic society where the majorities that will govern guarantee the rights of minorities.

What are the priorities of IBERO University for 2017?

Our priorities will be to have a university more linked to society and to strengthen mechanisms for outside reality to be present on campus. We think that a Jesuit university cannot be isolated, but must be in constant feedback with the society from which it springs. A second priority is to make our community an inclusive and plural one by strengthening one of our most ambitious programs, which is the incorporation of students from popular sectors within the university. We plan to incorporate 2,000 students with full scholarships. A third priority is to increase research, graduate studies, and the impact of these theoretical-academic reflections on resolving the country’s problems.



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