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SPAIN - Health & Education

José Muñiz

Rector, Universidad Nebrija

Bio

José Muñiz holds a Bachelor’s and Doctorate in Psychology from the Complutense University of Madrid, where he served as a professor until 1984, when he obtained the Chair of Mathematical Psychology at the University of the Balearic Islands. From 1987 until this year, he has been a Professor of Psychometrics at the University of Oviedo. He has had an extensive and illustrious career as a teacher and researcher, with six recognized six-year research periods. He has published numerous works in national and international journals on Psychometrics and Psychological Assessment. He is a member of the Editorial Committee and reviewer for several scientific journals, as well as the founder and director of the journal Psicothema for over 30 years, currently ranked in the first quartile (Q1) of its category. Among his books on various aspects of psychological measurement, notable titles include Introduction to Psychometrics, Classical Test Theory, Item Response Theory, Psychometrics, Item Analysis, and Introduction to Psychophysics.

"Universidad Nebrija is a private university that is highly oriented toward academic excellence. It is medium-sized, with 14,000 students and 1,500 professors."
TBY talks to José Muñiz, Rector of Universidad Nebrija, about the story of the academic institution, operations overseas, and goals for the coming year.
Universidad Nebrija offers strategic degrees with a particular emphasis on employment. How does the institution distinguish itself regarding its educational approach and philosophy?

Universidad Nebrija is a private university that is highly oriented toward academic excellence. It is medium-sized, with 14,000 students and 1,500 professors. The university is technology-oriented, boasting a powerful polytechnic center. Interestingly, half of our students are enrolled in online programs, which is not typical. Furthermore, we have an international focus, with 25% of our students hailing from abroad. At the end of February 2024, I traveled to Santo Domingo to oversee the graduation of our students. We strive to blend traditions with modernity and are deeply invested in this endeavor. The lecture rooms maintain a classical tone while also being equipped with advanced technology. Additionally, we have developed online education platforms and pedagogical technologies to enhance learning experiences. What sets us apart? A university engages in numerous activities, but it must excel in two areas: teaching and research. We excel in teaching; our faculty selection process is rigorous. Moreover, we invest significantly in research, offering nine PhD programs. A university must build its reputation on these foundations, and we strive to excel in both areas.

Universidad Nebrija has headquarters and institutes in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Indonesia. How do you promote internationalization?

Internationalization is an integral aspect of our network, contributing significantly to achieving a comprehensive education. It fosters diversity, which is crucial for our students to comprehend the complexity of the world. We promote internationalization through various means, offering studies in Spanish and in English. Recently, we have observed a growing interest from foreigners in studying in Spanish. As the second most spoken language with 600 million speakers worldwide, Spanish generates considerable interest. Moreover, there are 60 million Spanish speakers in the US alone. It is estimated that professionals such as lawyers, engineers, or doctors who are proficient in both English and Spanish can improve their marketability by 20 to 30% in the US. We have numerous alliances, and our university maintains a strong focus on corporate collaboration. We have established over 14,000 partnerships with companies from diverse sectors. This close relationship is pivotal, contributing significantly to our students’ high employability.

You have established a partnership with BBDO & Proximity for a Master’s degree in advertising and marketing. What opportunities do these partnerships offer?

Many of our 4-year degrees include a period of time spent within a company. This link is fundamental as we establish a symbiotic relationship with those firms. We derive benefit from this arrangement, as our students gain practical experience, while the companies also benefit. We share our expertise in research with them, and in turn, they provide real-world problems for our students to solve. This relationship is highly fruitful, emphasizing the importance of mutual benefit, which is the key aspect.

The Nebrija Research Center in Cognition is dedicated to achieving research excellence in the field of behavioral sciences. What specific initiatives does the center pursue?

It is involved with both the education and the psychology faculties. The director, an internationally-renowned researcher named Jon Andoni Duñabeitia leads the center. They undertake various projects, such as the recent one focused on the cognitive training of Alsa drivers. Alsa, owned by National Express of England, collaborates in this endeavor. The center specializes in cognitive training, memory recovery, and enhancing cognitive abilities. While our brain may have limits, it remains continually improvable. The center is engaged in numerous similar projects, including those aimed at assisting children with learning difficulties. Its international significance is evident, as it has recently secured funding from BBVA for scholarships.

This year’s edition of The Business Year has a special focus on ESG and digitization. What initiatives is Universidad Nebrija exploring within these areas?

We are highly technologically oriented. We offer degrees in mathematics and physics, as well as Master’s programs in quantum computing and computer engineering. Our teaching approach incorporates AI as a fundamental component. We utilize ChatGPT as a pedagogical tool, and we provide courses to teachers to alleviate any apprehensions they may have about AI. It is all about leveraging AI in a positive manner for educational purposes. During my presentations, I occasionally reference ChatGPT, saying, “That’s what ChatGPT would suggest.” ChatGPT represents an innovation as it simulates human speech. However, its content is comparable to stew in a can—acceptable, but not particularly satisfying.

In our previous interview, we discussed the challenge of attracting young women to the STEM field. What progress has there been in this area over the past few years?

We continue working on this issue, but also believe that everyone should pursue what they actually enjoy. We do strive to make STEM degrees more appealing to everyone, including women and the number of women opting for these degrees has increased.

As the Rector of the university , what do you consider to be your most significant challenge?

The challenge has always been to attract the best professors and students. A quality university boasts the best of both. If you look at Harvard and MIT, they have Nobel Prize-winning professors and accept around 4% of applicants. We make an effort to maintain quality in every aspect. Our approach is highly customized for each individual. We organize small groups with a maximum of 45 people. Each person is assigned a tutor who guides them from the moment they enroll. Another unique feature that sets us apart is what we refer to as an Institute of Transversal Competencies. We understand that expertise in a specific field is essential, but the professional world also demands soft skills such as teamwork, social skills, personal knowledge, learning capabilities, and flexibility. We have a dedicated institute to teach these skills. While studying computer engineering, you will acquire a wealth of technical knowledge, but that alone is not sufficient. You must also be adaptable to employers’ needs and continue learning every day. Technical knowledge is estimated to have a lifespan of two years. If you are unable to keep pace with ongoing learning, you risk falling behind within this timeframe.

What are the goals and priorities for this year and the next? Additionally, are there any upcoming partnerships on the horizon?

We will be launching a medicine degree, which will be located on the La Berzosa campus. Additionally, we will continue to invest in new technologies within the sphere of education. Our institution comprises nearly 2,000 employees, including 1,500 professors and approximately 400 staff members in services and administration. While each individual possesses intelligence, collectively, we possess collective intelligence. To achieve this, we require leadership to unite everyone’s intelligence effectively. Moreover, a technological infusion is essential, as it enhances collective intelligence through the integration of technology. This philosophy enables the organization to perpetually evolve and learn. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that individuals find professional, personal, and collective fulfillment, fostering happiness in each of these aspects.

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