Rectorado, Barrio Sarriena s/n, 48940, Leioa, Spain
The University of the Basque Country’s new Euskampus project aims to achieve excellence in theoretical research as a means to enhancing well-being and people’s quality of life
In a prosperous region stretching along the Atlantic coast of northern Spain, the people of the Basque Country are the custodians of one of Europe’s most ancient languages and cultures. Yet, they not only have a high esteem for tradition, but they are also remarkably forward-looking and have established a highly regarded industrial sector.
The region’s success and scientific and technological progress are underpinned by the University of the Basque Country, a vibrant 30-yearold institution with 45,000 students, 5,000 world-class academic staff and state-of-the-art facilities. Offering first-rate courses and research opportunities, the university aims, as its Vice Rector for International Relations, Dr Miriam Peñalba, puts it, ‘to have a positive impact on society through innovation and by shaping strategies to improve people’s lives’.
‘Excellent’ PhD programmes
The University of the Basque Country’s exceptional academic output has gained it a place among the world’s top 400 universities. It boasts a varied catalogue of PhD programmes, and the European Space for Higher Education (an EU initiative to increase the competitiveness of European higher education) has deemed more of them ‘excellent’ than at any other Spanish university. The institution’s brand-new 188,000 sq m Science Park, which is currently under construction, will further enhance its scope of activities by providing cutting-edge facilities for technology-based, innovative corporations and at least 50 university subsidiary groups.
‘In fact, our mission goes well beyond the promotion of pure academics, explains Dr Peñalba. ‘We are convinced that we have a comprehensive social responsibility, so we search for solutions to social, cultural and environmental challenges. Part of that is to nurture creativity and the spirit of innovation in business communities. That’s why we’ve designed and implemented our own teaching system based on the strict criteria of quality, competitiveness and excellence that have been set out in the European Foundation for Quality Management’s Excellence Model.’
The Euskampus Initiative
Central to the university’s aspirations for the future is the Euskampus project, which entails bringing science closer to society, enabling economic growth and diversifying the science and technology sectors. Set up as a blueprint for the transformation of the wider society, the initiative – which is led by the University of the Basque Country, Donostia International Physics Center and the Tecnalia Corporation – has garnered widespread support. Having identified its members’ greatest strengths and society’s current and future needs, Euskampus has established three priority areas: innovative processes and new materials; healthy ageing and quality of life; and sustainable ecosystems and environmental technologies.
By concentrating all its efforts on them, the members expect to achieve tangible, real-world change within a short period of time. Crucially, Euskampus is not merely concerned with effecting this change in the Basque Country but throughout the whole of Europe. To this end, the university is in the process of setting up a collaboration with the University of Bordeaux in France that aims to increase students’ employability skills through joint master’s and PhD programmes. The partnership is expected to boost short-term mobility and enable students to benefit the communities they live in.
‘The capacity of Euskampus to generate progress cannot be overstated,’ says Dr Peñalba. ‘It is a crucial step towards buttressing the strong bonds that unite all members of society, and therefore the perfect example of what the University of the Basque Country considers its mission.’