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SPAIN - Health & Education

Pedro Irastorza

Managing Director, Universidad Villanueva


Pedro Irastorza has a doctorate in forestry engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and a PDG from IESE. Between 1996 and 2003, he held various positions in the Community of Madrid, including Deputy minister of education, director-general of educational centers, director-general of agriculture, and director-general of local administration. This stage was followed by other responsibilities in the educational and corporate world, including deputy director-general of organization and resources at CEU Educational Group and director of the Iberdrola Campus. He has also developed an extensive technical, teaching, and research career in companies and institutions such as Michelin, Tragsa, the National Institute for Agricultural Research, the Higher Technical School of Forestry Engineers, the Rey Juan Carlos University, and the Royal Academy of Sciences. Since January 2019, he has been the Managing Director of Villanueva University.

"We have an employability rate of 96% because we have more than 1,200 agreements with companies."

Pedro Irastorza, Managing Director of Universidad Villanueva, talks to TBY about the role of the university, engagement with private firms, and priorities for the year ahead.

Universidad Villanueva has almost 50 years of experience educating and training professionals. How has the focus of the university evolved over the decades?

We are currently developing the second strategic plan for the university. Universidad Villanueva must maintain its identity and anticipate the challenges ahead. Our focus remains on our people, as Villanueva’s reason for existence is its students. We strive to be excellent for their benefit. All our previous experience has given us the strength for our rebirth in 2020 as a private institution. We draw from extensive experience, which has provided us with an advantage, as we have personnel including research professors, administrators, and other service providers who possess a university mindset. We have had to make numerous changes, creating structures, digitalizing the entire university, and implementing informatics systems to streamline operations. Our goal is to provide students with the best possible university experience.

What vision guides the program Impronta, one of the university’s methodologies aimed at accompanying students throughout their journey?

Students are our focus, and Impronta means footprint, symbolizing the impact we aim to leave on our students, which they, in turn, will leave on others. Every university is distinct in its own way, and this program differentiates us from other universities. Our educational approach has four pillars that enable us to bring out the best in our students. The first is the design of the study plan, while the second pillar is volunteering. Then, we have the ApS (Service-Learning), implemented a few years ago, which holds significant importance for us. We aim for our students to learn and practice their profession while aiding others, such as in law, where they assist those unable to afford legal services. Finally, the core curriculum is fundamental. As society becomes increasingly technological, there is a risk of neglecting humanistic and interdisciplinary training. A core curriculum provides a foundation in various subjects like anthropology, culture, AI, anthology, and leadership, ensuring these concepts leave a mark on our students. A key figure of Impronta is the consultant. Upon arrival at Villanueva, students are assigned a consultant to guide them throughout their journey. This mentorship aims to instill attributes essential for both academic and life success, functioning as a professor-coach dynamic. Together, they chart the students’ paths. As students progress, the consultant transitions into a mentor, often an alumnus. Currently, we have 80 alumni mentors who, having recently completed their degrees, are assisting others in navigating the real world.

Universidad Villanueva has expanded its offerings in nursing and physiotherapy, highlighting its focus on high-demand courses. What is your strategy to meet societal needs?

We added business analytics, marketing and international relations degrees three years ago because they complement our existing offerings. We have 11 degrees and 11 joint honors degrees. We aim for social impact, focusing on people who are central to society. Disciplines like nursing and healthcare science can improve society, with psychology currently being our strongest field. We pioneered this study 10 years ago, always prioritizing people and the sector. We will launch a nursing course on our new Pozuelo campus, opening in September, together with physiotherapy. We aim to create preventative healthcare and treat the ill. Understanding individuals to better address their issues is a priority for us.

How does the university engage with private companies?

We have an employability rate of 96% because we have more than 1,200 agreements with companies. With 2,300 students in the university, it is an excellent success rate. We provide extensive support to our students, offering opportunities for both curricular and extracurricular practices, both domestically and internationally. Our agreements span across the most relevant companies as well as local ones; we are inclusive in our approach. Universidad Villanueva empowers students to pursue their interests and choose their own path. Obligatory practices are integral to healthcare science courses within clinics, extending throughout the faculty. Universities must embrace the real world through research and engagement with the entrepreneurial community, ensuring relevance and practical application.

What strategy does Universidad Villanueva employ for internationalization, particularly in providing global programs for its students?

There are international programs available. Apart from Erasmus, we organize training and work weeks with specific focuses, such as law, finance, and education, which are successful. Students have the opportunity to conclude their studies with a final course at another university to gain a reference from there. We also offer recognized joint honors degrees, allowing students to earn degrees from both universities. We have an interesting partnership with the Caledonian University of Glasgow and are finalizing an agreement with another in Dublin. The list is endless: Munich Business School, London School of Economics, and more. We also have partnerships in the Americas, with a particular focus on Ibero-America. Our connections extend to universities such as Austral, Andes, La Sabana, Panamericana, and Piura. Opportunities also exist for students to go to Africa. Internationalization is essential, and students often opt for it. We enable them to train to be professors in the US and UK a year after their degree. This experience enriches their learning and broadens their global perspective. Understanding different systems of life and work is crucial.

What are your key goals and priorities for the upcoming year?

For the upcoming school year, we are planning additional research initiatives beyond those already underway and previously mentioned. We plan to establish research institutes, including one focused on people, society, and family, as well as educational innovation, in addition to our existing institution on good governance and democratic quality. Furthermore, we will introduce a new degree program in applied mathematics and launch an ambitious program for permanent training, consisting of a series of microcredits, allowing students to design their own master’s degree. Additionally, we will continue to prioritize the commencement of nursing and physiotherapy programs. Currently, we are finalizing our initial strategic plan and drafting the second one, looking forward to 2028. The first plan has significantly transformed the university, and the second will be its consolidation, with an emphasis on sustainability. Sustainability for us signifies the endurance of our projections over time. As a university, we prioritize long-term planning over short-term fixes. Our steps must be cautious and forward-thinking, ensuring we can surpass our current achievements in the years to come. Our concept of sustainability extends beyond environmental concerns; we are equally committed to ensuring the dignity of individuals. Every person must contribute according to their expertise, and it is our responsibility to safeguard their dignity amidst progress and technological advancements. Such type of sustainability is of utmost importance to us.



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