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The Higher Education in Regional and City Development. The Autonomous Region of Catalonia report, presented last Friday at Barcelona’s Cercle d'Economia, provides extensive information on the role of universities in Catalonia’s economic development and includes recommendations for areas such as training human capital, the innovation system, and cultural, social and environmental development.

The study was carried out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCDE) in conjunction with the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the CyD Foundation, the Barcelona Strategic Metropolitan Plan, the Barcelona City Council and the Government of Catalonia’s Department of Economy and Knowledge. 

The chapter that analyzes human capital development in Catalonia recommends that the national government take measures to put tertiary education within reach of students from low socio-economic backgrounds; that universities and stakeholders from other economic and social sectors work together to establish a long-term strategy for human capital development; that evidence-based decision making be improved in this arena and company needs be taken into account. The report cites the successful training program (Biocápsulas) developed by Biocat after identifying the needs of the biotechnology and biomedicine business sector in Catalonia as an example in this regard.

Regarding knowledge transfer, the study explains that Catalan universities have made significant progress in terms of generating knowledge; however transfer of this knowledge must be improved. The innovation model focuses on science and technology and limits university mobility in terms of social and cultural innovations. The study also recommends that incentive schemes be put in place so that universities will commit to carrying out research that is of interest to the region where they are located.

In the same chapter on the innovation system, the report recommends that reform of aspects like researcher curriculums and university governance be sped up. It also points out that universities should develop a regional knowledge transfer model based on existing relationships with the industry. This intermediary role is costly and complicated for universities when the private sector isn’t organized. According to the international experts who wrote the study, Biocat’s work method is a good example of this point.

In order to reinforce universities’ role in territorial development, the report suggests, among other measures, a pilot program to modernize the university governance systems and the establishment of a coordination platform for tertiary education in Catalonia. It also recommends that universities prioritize regional and local development and that they work together to rationalize the degree programs offered, as well as continuing to develop joint masters and doctoral programs.

Participants at the event to present the report included Minister of the Economy and Knowledge, Andreu Mas-Colell; First Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Jordi William Carnes; Rector of the UB and President of ACUP, Dídac Ramírez; General Coordinator of the CyD Report, Martí Parellada; Coordinator of the Barcelona Strategic Metropolitan Plan, Francesc Santacana; Head of the OCDE Higher Education in Regional and City Development program, Jaana Puukka, and ACUP Executive Secretary Josep M. Vilalta. Vilalta and Parellada coordinated the project in Catalonia.

This project to analyze the current situation in Catalonia is part of the OCDE’s Higher Education in Regional and City Development program, which has carried out similar studies in more than twenty countries.

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