On May 27, the Catalan Government’s Director General of Universities, Lluís Jofre, presented Catalonia’s university system at the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference & Expo, one of the world’s most important events in the field of higher education, which is taking place this week in Boston.
Accompanied by the Deputy Head of Delegation to the United States, Mireia Rozas-Simon, Director General Jofre underlined the important relationship between the Catalan and U.S. university systems, evidenced by the 268 collaborative agreements held by Catalan universities with 42 higher learning institutions in the United States, including prestigious centres such as the University of California, Cornell University and the University of Chicago. In his presentation to world experts gathered for the NAFSA conference at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center, Jofre pointed to the large number of collaborative agreements, as well as the fact that 40% of Masters programmes in Catalonia are taught entirely or partially in English, as a powerful demonstration of Catalan universities’ on-going strategic focus in internationalization.
Masters programmes in Catalonia already have a strong international dimension: some 26% of currently enrolled students are foreigners, and this figure is expected to increase within the next five years with the addition of 10,000 new international students, most coming from outside the European Union. In addition, Jofre spoke about this as an extremely positive development, noting that “the presence of international students in Catalan universities is good for increasing intellectual, cultural and scientific wealth” at those institutions.
At present, the Catalan university system offers 23 joint degrees with institutions of higher education in the United States, and is involved in 19 university networks with members in the United States, such as the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI), International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP) and NAFSA, the group hosting this week’s conference. Mr Jofre also highlighted the 53 international studies programs in which Catalan universities participate, providing U.S. and Catalan students with the ability to further their education overseas in areas such as nanotechnology, economics, biomedicine, tourism and experimental sciences.
A relationship with the USA spanning three decades
The Director General of Universities also spoke during his presentation about Catalonia’s strong three-decade relationship with the United States in the field of higher education and research, which began in 1986 when a California State Senate resolution lead to creation of the Gaspar Portolà Catalan Studies program and collaboration between the University of California (UC) and Catalonia’s Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA).
The Balsells Program, named after Catalan businessman and long-time California resident Pere Balsells, is another fine emblem of the long-standing academic relationship between Catalan and U.S. schools. Between its founding in 1995 and 2014, the program awarded 138 academic fellowships to Catalan engineering students to pursue a post-graduate degree at UC Irvine.
Catalonia’s academic ties with California, home to three of the top ten universities in the world, were renewed last year with the signing of a framework agreement with the University of California system, as well as concrete agreements with its Berkeley and Irvine campuses, Stanford University and the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST).
Furthermore, on the East Coast, the Catalan Government signed an agreement in 2012 with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts focused on cooperation in priority areas such as academics, research and technological innovation.