The Catalan university system 2019-2020 academic year launched at UPF

The Catalan university system 2019-2020 academic year launched at UPF

The academic ceremony, presided by Quim Torra, president of the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia, was held in the auditorium of the Ciutadella campus. The inaugural lecture was given by Nuria Oliver, Telecommunications engineer and PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


Imatge inicial

On 6 September at midday in the auditorium of the Ciutadella campus, Pompeu Fabra University hosted the official opening of the 2019-2020 academic year for the Catalan university system, which includes Catalonia’s twelve universities.

Video inaugural ceremony

The ceremony, presided by Quim Torra, president of the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia, enjoyed the presence of Àngels Chacón, minister of Enterprise and Knowledge; Joan Subirats, deputy mayor for Culture, Education and Science of Barcelona City Council; Jaume Casals, UPF rector, and Montserrat Vendrell, chair of the UPF Board of Trustees.

Also present were Francesc Xavier Grau, secretary for Universities and Research; Lluís Baulenas, general secretary of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia (CIC), the rectors of the various Catalan universities, and other officials of the Catalan Government and Barcelona City Council.

The ceremony began with the screening of a video by Fede Serramalera on the work of his mother, Leticia Feduchi, author of the 2019-2020 academic year inaugural work.

After UPF rector, Jaume Casals had welcomed and greeted those in attendance, the video report of the 2018-2019 academic year was screened, whose main theme was the commemoration of the fifth centenary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci (1519-2019).  The video report included a review of the main achievements in the areas of community, research, education, environment and outreach, internationalization, funding and campus, social commitment and the UPF of the future.

Inaugural lecture by Nuria Oliver

Nuria Oliver, Telecommunications engineer, PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and academic at the Royal Academy of Engineering, also awarded yesterday, 5 September, the Data Scientist of the year award in Dublin by the Big Data Value Association (BDVA), delivered the inaugural lecture entitled “Towards artificial intelligence by and for society”.

Complete lecture in pdf (16 pp.)

Complete video of the lecture (30:51 min)

Excerpts from the lecture

“In all my projects, the person —individually or collectively— has been and is the central element: technology by and for society. Technology that understands us as a prior step to being able to help us”.


“Today we dispose of vast amounts of data we can use to train AI algorithms that allow researchers, companies, governments and other public sector players to address complex problems”.


“Data-based algorithmic decisions have the potential to improve our decision-making. In fact, history has shown that human decisions are not perfect [...]. However, decision-making based on algorithms trained with data is not exempt from limitations”.


“So, I would like to highlight five pillars that we should deal with in order for this new way of taking decisions, based on IA and data, to have a positive impact on society, which I sum up using the English acronym FATTEN:  F is for fairness [...]; A is for autonomy [...]; T is for trust [...]; T is for transparency [...]; E is for education [...]; E is for bEneficence [...]; E is also for equality [...]; and finally N is for non-maleficence”.


“Major world powers, both enterprise and governments, have understood that leadership in IA will involve leadership not just on an economic level but also on a political and on a social level. [...] Hence, we should urgently broach the preparation, too, of a national strategy for IA to assure that its development and implementation have a positive social impact: Artificial Intelligence by and for society”.


Only with an ambitious, holistic multiannual commitment agreed by a political majority through a State Pact, backed by the citizenship and driven by a cross-cutting body within the government will we manage to realize the immense positive impact that Artificial Intelligence can have on society”. 

Awarding of the Jaume Vicens Vives Distinctions

After the lecture, Lluís Baulenas, general secretary of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia, read out the Decree of the Governing Body granting the Jaume Vicens Vives distinctions for university teaching quality and M.  Encarna Sanahuja Yll mentions for excellence in the inclusion of gender perspective in university teaching. The various winners came up on stage to collect their diploma from president Quim Torra.

The three individual awards of the Jaume Vicens Vives university teaching quality distinctions were granted in recognition of the track records of Marta Sancho i Planas, a professor of the Faculty of Geography and History at the University of Barcelona (UB); Miguel Valero García, a professor of the Castelldefels School of Telecommunications and Aerospace Engineering at the UPC, and Josep Duran Carpintero, a professor of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Girona (UdG).

The awards to groups, meanwhile, went to the project to develop the university master’s degree in Teacher Training, by the Faculty of Psychology, Education and Sports Sciences Blanquerna of Ramon Llull University (URL); “Learning and service in the field of nutrition: from the university classroom to the school”, by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Rovira i Virgili University, and finally “Integrated practices: transforming a conventional subject into a comprehensive and meaningful learning process”, by the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC).

UPF, winner of one of the M. Encarna Sanahuja Yll mentions

The project “#AmbPerspectiva: Introduction of the gender perspective in undergraduate teaching”, by Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), coordinated by  Tània Verge, director of the Equality Unit at the University (who came up on stage, along with Ester Oliveras, the rector’s delegate for sustainability, to collect the award) was one of two winners of the M. Encarna Sanahuja Yll mentions for excellence in the inclusion of gender perspective in university teaching, in this, the first edition.

It recognizes their contribution to a global transformation at this university, with the creation of new specialized courses on gender in the bachelor’s degrees, the minor in Gender Studies, the incorporation of the gender perspective in the curriculum, and teaching methodologies used, with an increased proportion of female authors worked on in the subjects, as well as the promotion of the inclusion of a cross-cutting competence on gender perspective.

Tània Verge believes that, for UPF, this special mention “represents the recognition of the joint work that a group of teaching staff and units such as the CLIK and the Equality Unit have launched in recent years to help spread what it means and how to apply the gender perspective in teaching, through the creation of open access educational resources and training workshops for teachers. With this prize money we can expand on the actions initiated and develop new ones. We expect there to be more and more people and centres involved in this task”.

With regard to the Catalan university system, the director of the Equality Unit considers that “the creation of this award represents a clear commitment to the introduction of the gender perspective in teaching, in line with the forthcoming evaluation of the gender dimension in the degrees and in the quality assessment processes. That is, the award recognizes that quality and equality are inseparable concepts”.

The second mention went to the minor in Gender Studies of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) for its innovative and pioneering initiative, in the inter-faculty scope and for students of all degrees, to offer quality training in gender from different disciplines.

The ceremony continued with a block of speeches by the authorities, begun by Montserrat Vendrell, president of the UPF Board of Trustees.

Speech by Montserrat Vendrell

>Complete speech by Montserrat Vendrell in pdf

Montserrat Vendrell, chair of the UPF Board of Trustees since February 2019, started by saying that, in addition to being among the best for research and teaching, UPF “is characterized by being a university that responds to the real needs of society”.

She mentioned two major projects on which the institution is currently working: the Planetary Wellbeing project, which links people’s wellbeing with that of the planet that hosts us, and the Ciutadella of Knowledge project, an example of the University’s active role in the country’s social and economic transformation.

“We face major challenges that must be urgently embraced so as not to jeopardize what we have achieved so far”, she said. Finally, she demanded more autonomy for universities, a commitment to transparency and accountability. “We are dealing with a generational changeover at the university, and we need a realistic plan to address it. We will also continue to promote internationalization, mobility and talent retention”, she concluded.

Speech by Joan Subirats

The deputy mayor of Barcelona mentioned that the City Council has brought together culture, education, science and knowledge, forming an area for which he is responsible. “For the first time the Council has created an area that encompasses these activities, and our job is to manage competences and responsibilities concerning all these areas”.

Joan Subirats listed some of the projects that have been or are being carried out by the City Council in relation to education and science, such as Escolab, STEAM, the Science Advisory Council and the Barcelona Science Plan, which is endowed with a million euros, to tackle the city’s research challenges.  “Our aim is to relate to the universities of Barcelona and undertake projects together”, he assured.

Speech by the rector, Jaume Casals

Complete speech by Jaume Casals in pdf 

>Complete video of the speech

Excerpts from the speech by Jaume Casals

”I think that what’s important, what’s decisive, are people, but the exercise of power has its rules and its vagaries, which by far exceed the will of the best people and even their understanding, and we must protect ourselves from them by understanding them, showing them and perhaps even heroically trying to change them”. 

“Quality at universities and in research is as important as any general service to society. [...] I think the decisions, both those taken by the government and the universities’ own, never quite fully accept that there is no future for the university without a strong commitment in all respects for quality”. 

“Having subjected the institution to drastic reorganization, or an already stable exercise of research assessment, or having maintained strict, frugal criteria in the recruitment of permanent teaching staff has not ended up by having any stable, tangible effect”. 

“This effort to find the good side of the crisis and get fully in form to gain international presence by a small-sized university might even end up hurting the university”. 

“I believe in a very simple regulatory framework. I mean i dream of one. When I got involved in this work, I thought it was possible. [...] The tangle of laws that we have we complicate yet further by inventing other rules that are completely unnecessary and only contribute to a terrible added burden to the running of a university struggling to be diligent”.

“I think that universities not only try to compete healthily, as is often said, but they often have the nerve not to be fond of each other [...] I wanted to take advantage of today and now to invite people from the institutions to appreciate the people of the others and not to get into dynamics of one-upmanship where there is none, one-upmanship, that is”.

“Mixing the parameters that measure the evolution of science and the evolution of culture also involves major conceptual errors. UPF’s commitment to science leaves no doubt. With the help of my colleagues, in recent months I personally have proposed a commitment also to culture”.

Speech by Quim Torra

The president of the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia began by plotting out some of the history of UPF and the successful regional deployment of universities throughout Catalonia, but assured that there is still much work to do: “We need resources to progress with the National Pact for the Knowledge Society, to promote internationalization, advanced research, to make a qualitative leap in innovation and knowledge transfer, to create an innovative productive fabric, etc. To do this, we need the appropriate public funding”.

In this regard, he stated that “we need to define a new model of funding for universities; as president of the Generalitat I am fully committed. This effort must be far more intense, because if not, it will not be credible”, he stressed.

Regarding the budget for next year, he said “we still do not have the budget for 2020, but we do have the project, and we are working so that it can move forward, to reverse the negative aspects of the crisis and to increase welfare and improve the economy”.

Some of the positive aspects carried out by the Government highlighted by the president are the 100% increase in the rate of teacher renewal or the fact that 44% of students in Catalonia are studying at universities that are in the top 100 in Europe, or that 42% of students who most need them benefit from study grants.

The performance of the popular university hymn Gaudeamus igitur by the UPF Choir, with all those present standing, brought the event to a close.

Leticia Feduchi, author of the 2019-2020 academic year inaugural work

During his speech, Jaume Casals, UPF rector, said that “Leticia Feduchi’s painting (in oil and charcoal on wood) joining the collection of works of art to help us show to all, everyone in the world, from a different perspective (without registrations, examinations, qualifications, research groups, projects, etc.) what underlies the university. I am most grateful for this contribution (and to Fede Serramalera, the superb video about his mother’s work)”.

A representative artist of contemporary realism

Born in Madrid in 1961, Leticia Feduchi currently lives and works in Barcelona. She studied painting, drawing and engraving at the Escola Eina of Barcelona, at the Istituto per l’Arte e il Restauro in Florence, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes and at the Academia Amadeo Roca in Madrid. Great-granddaughter of the painter Blas Benilliure, she acknowledges Francesc Artigau, Antonio López, Albert Ràfols Casamada, Xavier Serra de Rivera, Amadeo Roca, Francesc Todó and Antònia Vilà as being her great masters.

Since 1986, she has participated in several joint exhibitions both in Spain and abroad. Regarding her solo exhibitions, she debuted in 1981 at the Escola Eina of Barcelona and since then she has held a dozen more in various cities such as Paris, Madrid, or Ciutadella. The latest exhibition, “Nidos vacíos” was on display at the Sala Parés in Barcelona, between the months of March and April 2019.

Her portraits include those of Manuel Royes (Barcelona Provincial Council), Álvaro Mutis (National Library of Spain), Raquel Fouquet (Academician of the Sciences and Arts of Barcelona), Carlos Güell (Barcelona Equestrian Circle), Ernest Ventós and Ferran Sagarra, among others.

Her work stems from constant doubt and questioning, reflection and the search for answers, a process closely related to the world of literature and especially poetry. In Feduchi’s work, realism and contemporaneity coexist perfectly.

She bases her work on classical painting and is most fascinated by Velázquez and Caravaggio. Her works revolve around as classic a theme as the expiration of things and the transience of time. However, she approaches it from a contemporary perspective and is fully aware that there is no incompatibility between her admiration for the classics and modernity.

Feduchi’s painting focuses on small everyday objects such as fruit from the country or fabrics, isolating them in an atmosphere of intense, sometimes natural light, purifying them to highlight the purely pictorial values emanating from their shape and colour. Her rigorous, meticulous technique allows her to explore the shades, textures and, ultimately, the light given off by these objects.

> Photo gallery posted on Flickr

Acte inauguració del curs 2019-2020





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