The Business Year

Sergio Parra

Rector, Fundación Universitaria de Ciencias de la Salud — FUCS

Tito Crissien

Former Rector, Universidad de la Costa

In line with the needs of the country, science universities are making sure their graduates have the right expertise and skillsets to participate in Colombia's economic reactivation.

How did you continue to maintain high education standards during the pandemic?

SERGIO PARRA We were quick to have online courses ready and meet the requirements set out by the government. We also managed to get authorization so some of our graduate students could provide services in intensive care units. By doing that, we were able to provide excellent talent to Bogotá and other cities to support the response to COVID-19. We graduated many students in health sciences who provided services in hospitals. We worked with some NGOs, such as Project Hub, which works along the Colombian border in Arauca, Cesar, Norte de Santander, and La Guajira to attend to the challenges that COVID-19 poses to migrants. We sought to not only to raise awareness of COVID-19, but also of other chronic diseases that had been somewhat neglected.

To what do you attribute Universidad de la Costa’s reputation in science, innovation, and technology?

TITO CRISSIEN We are focused on developing the skills of our faculty members. We are also recruiting more PhD graduates, publishing more papers, and investing in more research. The key has been investing in skill development for our science professors. Our aim is to maintain our high-quality standards, while integrating new technology into our programs and adapting to the changes that have been brought about as a result of the pandemic. We are currently one of the top 10 research universities in Colombia. In 2020, we published over 600 papers and finished sixth in the rankings. For us, we want to be the university with the highest graduate employment rate in the country

Can you elaborate on the importance of university hospitals for Colombia?

SP All the difficult diseases are treated at university hospitals in Colombia. Our institution is credited, as are our programs. Second, the university hospital must demonstrate its vocation for education and research. The institution has to have a record of investigations registered in the Administrative Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation (Colciencias). That provides the hospital with a background to detail where it would like to focus its investigative efforts. It is extremely important for the hospital to have an accreditation history, which allows us to have a great experience in the training of health professionals. We have programs for many areas, and many professions within hospitals, including nursing or administration in health services. We have two university hospitals.

Could you tell us about the university’s social responsibility campaigns?

TC As part of our Generación E initiative, we are currently offering grants for postgraduate students, 100% tuition for the first year. This strategy has helped us attract a significant number of Generación E students and has enabled us implement other social responsibility programs. We have also been working with the Ministry of Science on sustainable development in line with the UN SDGs. Our research thus far has focused on climate change in Magdalena and Sucre. In addition, we have a program in a neighborhood in the south of Barranquilla. This work is carried out in partnership with the religious foundation Los Camilos. Right now, we are also putting together a program to help Venezuelans.

How is FUCS assisting with economic reactivation?

SP We feel the problems that the families of our students are going through. We provided discounts for every program in 2020 and also generated a fund for families affected by the pandemic in addition to our fund for scholarships. We did not lay off any teachers and also preserved the jobs of our entire staff; however, we reduced our expenditure on services that we hire from third-party contractors by 20%.

How does the university fulfill its international vision?

TC We have been recruiting many PhD graduates, the majority of which come from Brazil, Venezuela, and Spain. They bring with them a network of researchers from the universities where they have completed their doctoral programs, enabling us to expand our network of universities, professors, and researchers. Now, 80% of our papers are written in conjunction with international collaborators, and 90% of them are written in English. Our professors are our main asset.

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