The UOC opens a centre in Colombia

Photo: Tijs Zwinkels / Flickr (CC)
Anna Torres Garrote
The new centre in Bogot will serve the thousands of students and graduates who have chosen this leading European online university

The University runs joint programmes and research projects with a number of Colombian universities, including Antioquia, Los Andes and Bucaramanga

The UOC is to open its second international centre – following that in Mexico – in mid-March at La Cra 7 # 73-47 of. 801, Bogot. The centre will help improve the service offered to the thousands of students and graduates the UOC currently has in Colombia, and strengthen the ties it has maintained for over 15 years with academic institutions and public authorities in the country.

Colombia is the country where the UOC has the largest number of international students and where it has collaborated on numerous occasions with other universities and institutions since early 2000, when the Ministry of Education called on the UOC to provide a training programme in ICTs so as to be able to develop its own online higher education system.

The UOC is a centre of excellence in higher education and able to influence public policy on education. It is renowned for its use of e-learning and ICTs in a range of fields including health, city management, tourism and development. "We can provide the Colombian university system, which is a highly digitized system, our more than twenty years of experience in introducing and consolidating e-learning in Spain so as to complement and aid access to high quality higher education to individuals and groups for whom it is more difficult," said UOC President Josep A. Planell.

A global university with a social impact

As part of its aim to become a global university with a social impact, the UOC has adopted the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as its road map. For the first time, universities are being called on directly. The UOC's online learning model makes it possible to obtain quality education while overcoming the obstacles of distance. "Online education offers opportunities to those who do not live in big cities, where the most prestigious universities are located, while also promoting regional development," said Pastora Martnez Samper, UOC Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation.

Promoting diversity in the classroom

Training people and professionals to be critical, aware of other realities and ready to meet global and social challenges is one of the UOC's priorities. To achieve this, it promotes diversity in the classroom, where students from different parts of the world share a campus, interact and benefit from one another. Among other activities, it has developed an international grants programme so people from different countries who have difficulty accessing the university system can study.

Inclusive and high quality e-learning

The UOC's aim is to help strengthen the Colombian university system through the introduction of quality online higher education. To achieve this, it has worked with different institutions in the country for a number of years. There is a grants programme with ICETEX, thanks to which one hundred Colombian students are currently studying master's degrees at the UOC. And, together with the University of Los Andes, it is leading a project involving another eleven universities to analyse the introduction of ICTs in the Colombian university system, and their effects on teaching methodologies and academic performance.

Because of its considerable experience in online education, the UOC has been called on to advise and help introduce high quality online learning models in countries such as Jordan and Chile. It is also leading the way in the recognition of e-learning by collaborating with university qualification accreditation agencies in countries such as Mexico and Ecuador.

The university as an agent of change

One of the key areas of the UOC is eHealth. This has led to an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to promote eHealth in Latin America and the Caribbean. Likewise, alongside a leading university in the field, the University of Antioquia, the UOC is helping to improve eHealth in the region through the Joint University Master's Degree in TeleHealth, which began in September 2016.

The UOC is committed to regaining the transformative role that universities can play in society and this has led to its signing agreements with local and international bodies. It has worked with UN agencies, such as UNITAR, WHO, FAO or UNDP, to develop training programmes to improve the skills of their officials and employees around the world. For example, it worked with UNDP to train 86 employees at the Colombian Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies in e-governance and IT security so as to allow the government to roll out its online strategy.

The UOC is also working with Colombia's National Centre of Historical Memory in a project being led by Memorial Democrtic and the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation to recover historical memory in three Latin American countries: Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala. The UOC will offer its expertise in digital strategy and online knowledge transfer for the dissemination of cultural heritage to the institutions involved in these three countries.

Official visit to Colombia

A UOC delegation made up of Josep A. Planell, UOC President, Pastora Martnez Samper, UOC Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation, and Manuel Castells, UOC Professor in Sociology, will travel to Colombia to open the new centre in Bogot. Alongside the capital, they will also visit Medelln.

To celebrate the official opening of the centre on 12 March, the UOC has organized an inaugural lecture titled "Education and Development" by Professor Castells. He will be accompanied by Dr Manuel Antonio Cruz Pineda, Director of Strategic Strengthening of Higher Education Institutions at the Colombian Ministry of Education, and the executive director of the Colombian Universities Association. The event will take place in the Buenos Aires room at Club el Nogal (Cra. 7 No. 78-96, Bogot) and can be followed live via the University's Facebook and Twitter accounts with hashtag #ColombiaUOC.

After the presentation in Bogot, the delegation will travel to Medelln, where Professor Castells will give a lecture titled "The University in the Information Age" at 10 am on Thursday 15 March at the Marriott Hotel (Cl. 1a Sur #43a-83).

The UOC in Colombia

The UOC has numerous agreements with Colombian universities. It runs programmes jointly with the National Autonomous University of Bucaramanga: the Master's Degree in eLearning and the Master's Degree in Open-Source Software, since 2004, and the specialization programme in Cultural Tourism since 2015. It has run the Master's Degree in TeleHealth with the University of Antioquia since 2016. And it is to start the Master's Degree in Strategic Management of Information and Knowledge with the Pontifical Bolivarian University this coming academic year.

The UOC is also developing virtual mobility, teacher training and university support programmes. For example, 706 UNIMINUTO students were able to study a UOC course during the second semester of the 2016/2017 academic year. Likewise, the UOC has provided online English courses for students and teaching staff at the Cooperative University of Colombia.

According to data regarding Colombia for the 2016/2017 academic year, the UOC has 327 students studying UOC-specific courses, 93 students studying joint master's degrees with the University of Bucaramanga and the University of Antioquia, and 702 from UNIMINUTO studying virtual mobility courses. Bogot is the city with the largest number of students, followed by Medelln and Cali. In terms of programmes, the Joint Master's Degree in Information and Communication Technology Security has the largest number of students, followed by the Master's Degree in Education and ICTs.

Nearly 3,000 Colombians have graduated from the UOC since it was founded in 1995. More than 2,000 of these graduates studied at the UOC thanks to agreements with universities in Colombia. The leading example is the University of Bucaramanga, which has made the city home to the largest number of UOC graduates.