The Business Year

Héctor M. Montemayor A.

Rector, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá

Oscar León

Rector, Quality Leadership University

Though playing catch-up with the more advanced countries in the region, Panama's higher education institutions are bringing in some of the best pedagogical talent on the market to do this as quickly as possible.

What have been some of your recent achievements?

HÉCTOR M. MONTEMAYOR A. Our goal is to educate comprehensive professionals, which means training workers to have a certain set of values and social approach. As such, we see our students’ participation with the JMJ Pilgrims as crucial to their education. We have also participated in events in which the Pope participated, which was another very important moment for the education of our students. In doing so, Panama sent everyone a message that it was open to the world. As a general rule, we have succeeded thanks to having a larger purpose, and students and professors feel they are part of an important institution. That is a key factor that has allowed us to offer certain service-oriented programs. It is not easy for students to get accepted into the university—we have high standards and are very demanding. We have about 10,000 students a year that apply, but only enroll 4,000-5,000.

OSCAR LEÓN Our growth has come from an increase in people seeking access to quality education in English. Additionally, we have many expats who come to Panama in search of a degree from a university that will allow them to move forward, even if they are then sent to another country. If they come to Panama, instead of just leaving with a degree from a local Panamanian university, they want to have a degree that is more marketable elsewhere. They come to us since they can also get a degree from the US, Chile, or Spain through the Madrid Polytechnic. Panama has been growing in the past 15 years, and we are an important part of this growth. In Panama, 78% of our faculty has PhDs. We are able to do this by having visiting professors from the US, Chile, Spain, Argentina, and Colombia.

What kind of partnerships have you recently established?

HMMA As an institution, the university ought to be a public project. In order to achieve that, we have to be bound to the private, public, and institutional sectors. For the university to succeed, the private sector and government must be aligned. In that regard, one of our strategies is to establish agreements with institutions such as Apacreto, a civil engineering and science organization. This partnership allows our students to learn more practical things in addition to the theory. We try to have as many deals like these as we can. We also have a deal with Huawei, the Chinese mobile manufacturer, which is why we held an event in China. We have also closed some agreements for PhDs and graduate courses with Chinese universities and are in talks to develop important projects. We did the same with the German, Indian, Italian, and Japanese ambassadors to boost relations with institutions in those countries. This allows us to see how technology is evolving and adapt our programs to teach what is required by international companies.

OL Panama is not an academic power, so when we bring in outside professors from good universities, we bring professors who wrote the book, rather than those who read it. In bringing that level of expertise, we expose our students to a higher academic standard. This is tough, as we know students will not be able to easily get good grades and will have to work hard to succeed. This is why we do our foremost to recruit the best students. As a small country, we need to think about making Panama an academic destination for the entire region. Of course, we can easily criticize the quality of education here, but it is also worth remembering that we are a very young country. The oldest university in Chile is close to 200 years old, while the oldest in Panama is just 80. We still have a long way to go, which is why we must invest in infrastructure and education.



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