Interview with Enrique Ballester, Ex-Director of ETSID and Honorary President of the Conference of Directors of the Industrial Area
Enrique Ballester Sarrias
Ex-director of the ETSID of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and honorary president of the Conference of Directors of the Industrial Area
A whole life dedicated to teaching is what defines Enrique Ballester Sarrias. For 32 years, from 1986 to 2018, he has been at the head of the School of Design Engineering of Valencia. Doctor in physical sciences and professor of the ETSID (Department of Systems Engineering and Automation), at the end of last year he left his position as director, after a prolific career, which had begun in 1961, in the company Hidrocivil.
Of all his career as a professor and director of ETSID, what are you most satisfied with?
To start with other colleagues the internships in the company, the international relations and the improvement of the facilities that have allowed to incorporate new teaching methodologies with changes in the academic results of the students. As director, introduce the philosophy of the accreditation of our studies, which has allowed us to have the seals of excellence, EURACE, in our titles, as well as ABET and Pegasus, which, in turn, has contributed to achieve up to six Awards Nationals of the seven that our university received in a year.
What aspects of the University require more urgent solutions?
Change all the legislation that in the Rajoy mandates have blocked the Spanish public university. From the reduction of budget, the limitation of personnel (remember that for every 10 that retired could take a place), the rate increase, the changes of criteria in the allocation of scholarships to the drastic reduction or suppression of investment in research .
Why is innovation so necessary for a country?
We must change education from the first steps, develop teaching models that promote the realization and presentation of prototypes and other works at all levels, especially in the university. We must introduce entrepreneurship and innovation as something substantial in university education, the more our students are able to be entrepreneurs and innovate in their jobs, the better they will be valued and the more wealth will be created in this country.
How do you measure the success of a school in the university?
The success of a center is measured by the quality of its graduates, this quality in the training of students is measured from the accreditation by the ANECA of all the degrees we teach or other international accreditations that we have, the improvement of teaching positions , since we will reach 50 university professors (before we could not have any for being a university school) and what certifies success is due to the quality of our graduates’ work.
“The success of a center is measured by the quality of its graduates, and in the training of students is measured from the accreditation by the ANECA”
|“We have had double and triple degrees, which has favored that we have graduates working all over the world”|
To what extent is the internationalization of the school important to you?
In 1987, when Erasmus started in the European Union, we encouraged it in such a way that the following year we had students in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Portugal. Then we started the Alfa, Tempus projects, which we coordinated from the School of Valencia. A few months ago we published a book that gathered the experiences of teachers, students and PAS [administration and service personnel] from the beginning to the almost 200 that we sent each year, and the 400 that we currently receive. In the 1990s we started having exchanges with the United States. We have had double and even triple degrees, which has favored that we have graduates working all over the world.
During your time as director of ETSID, what steps have you taken in this regard?
In our center, internationalization and business practices and educational innovation are very incorporated, the three pillars in which our study plans are based. There are students who come to Valencia to study for a year, or participate in one of the 1,400 business practices. We have had or have ETSID students from Valencia, the most northerly in Finland, the more east in Japan, the west in the US and Canada, to the south the collaborations with Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Cuba, and with Africa we are developing magnificent collaborative projects for development.
How would you like to be reminded by your students?
As it happens now when you find some who have not seen you for years and who go with your children, and you notice a good tune, comment where they work, highlight some actions that we developed in school and that has served them in their professional lives. I love that they remember me as a friend they could and can access, who has always been willing to listen and support everyone.
Since you began your professional career, have you noticed significant changes among students?
And in the teaching staff? The students arrive with different abilities and abilities different from those they brought years ago; in general, they have more command of other languages, a wider digital culture and many already know other countries and cultures. The teachers of our schools have made great efforts to adapt to the technologies that we use today as support for teaching, as well as their incorporation to research to be able to be accredited to new positions, although I would like to have more teachers who would have practiced their profession as an engineer. in the industrial world, but that activity is valued little for accreditations.
Spanish engineers are well valued abroad. What would you say are your strengths?
In the last 30 years, the implantation of Erasmus opened the possibility that many students (some 3,000 in the school of Valencia) finished their studies in other countries, there they realized that their training overall was as good as that of their classmates from other countries. In most cases they emphasize that their training is of a broader engineer profile; As an example, a mechanic of ours also has knowledge of electricity, automation, economics, all of which makes them easily incorporated into different work environments.
“Students arrive with different abilities, they have more command of other languages and a wider digital culture than before”
|”The teachers of our schools have made great efforts to adapt to the technologies used as support in teaching”|
In general, do you consider that university studies are currently adjusted to the real needs of the labor market?
I usually tell the students that in many cases they will be hired for the first part of the name of their title, engineer, and other times for the second part aeronautical, mechanical, electronic, chemical industrial design. The first part is well worked and is very common in different countries, the second part enters into the debate of whether it has to be very specialized or of a wide spectrum. Personally I would leave the new specializations for a postgraduate education.
From 1986 to 2006 he was president of the Conference of Directors of Industrial Technical Engineering Schools and, subsequently, he has held the position of vice president, since 2012. What are the main actions and claims he has carried out?
In May of 1986 I was chosen by the team of Minister Maravall to represent the directors of Industrial Technical Engineering in group V of the University Reform; In the last quarter of 1986, I called all the directors of the university schools (EUITI) to take the proposals of our collective to the working group. I have led the proposals that have allowed to have bachelor’s degrees of four years and 240 credits, belonging to group A1. In the white paper presented at the ANECA, I feel very satisfied that deans of schools and more than 250 professors from 40 public universities participated. Collegiate of Honor of the Colleges of Madrid and Valencia and Insignia de Oro by the Galician IT Industrial Council.
What do these distinctions mean to you? How is your relationship with professional associations?
Personally, it is an honor. It means that the schools that continue the work that we do in school consider you to be one more graduate. In most cases, relations with national deans and presidents have been good; in fact, we count on them in the University Congresses of Educational Innovation in the Technical Teachings (CUIEET) and in the elaboration of the proposals of titles and contents. In the school in which I have been director there are classrooms dedicated to illustrious professors that we have had, and in the Hall of Degrees to a dean and national president, Francisco Garzón.
Following the acknowledgments, how do you remember the moment you received the Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X El Sabio, granted by the Minister of Education on behalf of D. Juan Carlos I King of Spain, in December 2010?
A great personal joy, for my family and for my school. The act, in March 2011, was very beautiful. The delegate of the Government came for the imposition, and in the subsequent meal we also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the director. The petition had accessions of secretaries of state, general directors, deans, school directors, companies and alumni.
Have you already thought about your new projects?
I am enjoying more of the family, I am still managing final year projects and final year projects and I am preparing a book about my work in educational innovation.