Despite the conditions that the pandemic is imposing on them and to which they are adapting, Antonio Largo Cabrerizo assures that his team has “clear ideas” about the project that the UVa needs for the future.
-In the middle of the second wave of the pandemic, how is the course developing?
-Being a complex course, it is going quite well. We follow up with the centers and try to collect information on any incident. The first week there were some small dysfunctions in some center, but they were also within the normal range with the incorporation of new technological means and new teaching models. From the second week on, things started to go quite well. I would have signed up for this situation before starting the course because everything looked very complicated. We did have the confidence that all the management teams of the faculties and schools, the professors, the department directors, the degree coordinators and the Government team had worked hard and had also made a great investment in technological means. Now things are calm. Most students are very understanding of the situation and are generally reasonably satisfied with the teaching.
-How are those classes?
-We have articulated a general plan, but then we have given the centers flexibility to adapt the teaching model that they believe is best suited to the characteristics of their degrees. Since it is desirable for everything to be face-to-face, we made an initial effort to digitize all teaching spaces, 400 classrooms in total, with interpersonal security space, and that has allowed us that many of the classes are face-to-face, but obviously , in large groups it was not possible. That is why the centers have adopted different teaching models. Some take weekly shifts and divide the course into two groups: half go in person for a week and the other group follows the class online that week. Others have opted for mirror classrooms, and there are centers that have opted for all online theoretical classes and have face-to-face groups for practices.
-Has this whole process been very costly for the UVA?
-Yes. The University has suffered a loss of revenue from cafeteria dealerships, dormitories, reprographics, etc., which were not operational during the closure. But above all, we have had to face very large investments. For example, only in technological development they have been 820,000 euros. In the conditioning of the spaces, adaptation of furniture, etc., we have invested 280,000 euros, plus some 300,000 euros in protective measures, masks, gels, etc. New teaching spaces have been incorporated for greater presence and all this has meant another 300,000 euros. Only the reinforcement of cleaning, so far this quarter, it is estimated that it is about 190,000 euros. It is a significant expense volume. We had reformulated the budget that we planned to approve in March and allocated a part to a “Covid fund” to meet these expenses. This situation will soon be alleviated because it seems that in December, the Ministry of Education of the Junta de Castilla y León will transfer a first advance of the funds that are allocated to universities per course. That is going to suppose us an injection of oxygen.
-He says that the students are understanding with the situation. Are they involved in assuming the safety regulations or have there been problems?
-In general, the behavior of the entire university community is good. Everyone is aware that the protocols are respected in university spaces. We also made an effort with the management teams of the centers in signaling the buildings for the flow of movement of people and avoiding crowds. Every day we report to the Epidemiology of the Board the cases that we have in the UVa, both in the staff and in the students, and the evaluations that they do indicate that there are no infections in the classrooms, that the classes are safe spaces, that the Students and staff are behaving correctly and there are no problems, and we are 25,000 people, including students, teaching and research staff and administration and services staff. Above all, there are no outbreaks, except those of the Alfonso VIII and Duques de Soria residences, originated by the social life of university students.
-Are they controlled already?
-Yes. We had 30 positives in the Alfonso VIII Residence and in Duques de Soria there were six. There has also been responsibility on the part of the students to respect the confinement and not to have major consequences.
-Is the mobility of students suffering?
-A lot. The number of foreign students we receive has been reduced by 68%. It was also to be expected in a year like this. Likewise, the UVa students that we send abroad are 40% of those who left last year. Many have requested to postpone mobility. There are universities that have not directly launched mobility programs, but we have opted to follow the recommendations of the European Union, as this is an important value for students. What matters most to us is that those who make their mobility are safe and that the academic conditions are adequate within the circumstances we have. Last year there was a lot of unrest and we acted on all fronts we could to try to minimize the impact on them. Through our International Relations Services we had to work to achieve an orderly return of the students who so desired. And the Spanish courses that we offered to foreigners have also suffered, and they had grown a lot.
-The UVa has important groups in the investigation of Covid. What can be highlighted about them?
-Yes. Around one million euros have been captured in projects for Covid-19 and practically, 50% of the research in the north of Spain in this area has been captured by the UVa. In other words, we have very competitive centers, groups and institutes.
-But are they making progress so that teaching quality does not suffer?
-The important thing is that, despite everything, the University continues to advance. Despite such complicated circumstances, we continue to make progress in research, in strengthening our staff and also in the academic offer. This same academic year, on September 28, three new degrees began: Energy Engineering in Valladolid, Anthropology in Palencia and Sciences of Physical Activity and Sports in Soria; a joint study plan, the Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from Valladolid and the Bachelor’s Degree in Labor Relations and Human Resources from Palencia; and four new master’s degrees, such as Film or Digital Translation in Multilingual Environments. Recently, something that could not be more pertinent and timely has been approved by the Governing Council, the Degree in Biomedicine and Advanced Therapies, which we believe is a commitment to the future, because that knowledge will allow us to have professionals who can face with greater guarantees all the necessary advances to treat new diseases or already chronic diseases. I think it will give us a bonus to the University of Valladolid. The UVa needs, if not a revolution, an evolution for 10 or 15 years, a change to position ourselves towards the future, and we continue to believe in our project, with all the difficulties and stops that this pandemic has caused us and what we will still face overcome.
-Has that happened with all the implementation of tools that you have had to undertake?
-We already had in mind that we needed a digital revolution and the pandemic has accelerated it. We have created the Vice-Rector’s Office for Teaching Innovation and Digital Transformation because we needed to bet on online teaching, to strengthen technological resources. This has precipitated our decision-making and we are adapting to the times, but with a very clear project and idea of what we want for the future of the University of Valladolid.