Back Laia de Nadal takes office as rector of Pompeu Fabra University

Laia de Nadal takes office as rector of Pompeu Fabra University

The ceremony, presided over by Joaquim Nadal, Catalan minister of Research and Universities, took place on 6 March, at noon, in the auditorium of the Ciutadella campus. It was attended by various academic authorities and officials of the Catalan government.


Imatge inicial

Laia de Nadal, a professor at the Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS) at UPF, has taken office as rector of Pompeu Fabra University, after having been chosen in the elections held from 17 to 20 February 2023. She thus becomes the sixth person (and the second woman) to hold the position of rector of the institution, following on from Enric Argullol (1990-2001), Rosa M. Virós (2001-2005), Josep Joan Moreso (2005-2013), Jaume Casals (2013-2021), and Oriol Amat (2021-2023).

The ceremony, which was broadcast live via the UPF website, took place on 6 March, at noon, in the auditorium of the Ciutadella campus. It was presided over by Joaquim Nadal, Catalan minister of Research and Universities, who was accompanied at the table by Oriol Amat, the incumbent rector, Laia de Nadal, the new rector, and Montserrat Vendrell, president of the Board of Trustees of the University.

Various academic authorities and officials of the Catalan Government, former UPF rectors, as well as other officials of the authorities, representatives of the various groups of the university community and from the Catalan university and research system were in attendance.

The event began with a welcome speech by Oriol Amat and the reading of the decree appointing Laia de Nadal as rector of Pompeu Fabra University, by Montserrat Vendrell, president of the UPF Board of Trustees. Then, in this order, Laia de Nadal and Joaquim Nadal signed the records of taking office, which was followed by a series of speeches.

Speech by Montserrat Vendrell

Full speech by Montserrat Vendrell, president of the UPF Board of Trustees (pdf in Catalan)

The first speech of the ceremony was given by Montserrat Vendrell, president of the UPF Board of Trustees. She began by explicitly thanking Oriol Amat, the incumbent rector, who, she assured, has put his leadership at the service of the institution.

Then, Vendrell wished to give special thanks to the courage of the new rector for taking the step forward and assuming this challenge: “It is no easy road and it has a big impact on one’s personal and professional life”. She acknowledged her good work leading the office of the vice-rector for Knowledge Transfer, “a new field that you have known how to tackle and open successfully”. And she stressed the various leaders that the University will have.

Speech by Oriol Amat

Next, it was the turn of the incumbent rector, Oriol Amat.

> Full speech by Oriol Amat (pdf in Catalan)

Excerpts from the speech by Oriol Amat

 ”Today is an important day for the Pompeu Fabra. I am handing the baton to the new rector, Laia de Nadal, following a process that has been carried out quite normally enabling the three most important positions of the University to be held by women (rector, president of the Board of Trustees and ombudsperson). This seems to me to be excellent news and contributes to improving gender balance and diversity in our society”.

“Let me start by talking about the work done. I stood for election with an electoral manifesto that set out 136 points covering all areas of the University. It was a very ambitious manifesto that I prepared after examining how it is done at the best universities in the world and taking into account the suggestions of more than 300 people from the entire community. Today, 6 March 2023, and despite the fact that covid has not made it easy for us, we have achieved most of the goals of the manifesto: 93% of the measures are either completed (72%) or have been broadly achieved (21%)”.

“Secondly, I would like to refer to the seeds sown. When I started my mandate to lead the University, I was very aware of the seeds sown by the rectors who have preceded me. I believe that in all cases we have managed to improve on the positions that had been achieved. During this mandate, we have also sown several seeds and UPF has the opportunity to grow them”.

“Thirdly, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the lessons I have learned during this mandate. The same thing happens as when you go on a journey, and that is that the person who returns is not the same person who set off on the trip [...] Treat people and any matter humanely [...]. In addition to people, above all there must be good values, especially at times when important decisions need to be made”.

“Everything I’ve said so far can be summed up in the vision I have of UPF. On the one hand, a university that is at the service of society and of people. And also a university based on values and humanism. Now, what to do with the seeds we have sown will be the key. Rector de Nadal and the community must decide if they want to grow them”.

“All we have done cannot be understood without the engagement of a community with so much talent and commitment. Together we have achieved major milestones (…). The people who make up the UPF community and the other people and organizations with whom we interact are an immense treasure”.

“For me it has been a great honour to have served UPF and society as rector, and it is an infinite honour to be able to continue serving others in the coming years. I can never thank you enough”.

Presentation of the rector’s medal to Laia de Nadal


Once the incumbent rector had finished his speech, the most symbolic and emotional moment of the ceremony arrived, when Oriol Amat presented the rector’s medal to Laia de Nadal and embraced her, which was followed by a lengthy ovation by the public in attendance. Now, as the new rector of Pompeu Fabra University, Laia de Nadal took the floor.

Speech by Laia de Nadal

Full speech by Laia de Nadal at the inauguration ceremony as rector of the UPF (pdf in Catalan)


Excerpts from the speech by Laia de Nadal

 ”Today is my first day as rector of Pompeu Fabra University, the university to which I have dedicated the last 23 years and in which I have achieved most of my academic and professional joys, always working in a team. It is also my first day of a new period, a new time, in which I would like the way we work as a team, with an open and critical spirit, transversally and collaboratively, to become established as one of the central characteristics not just of how we do things at UPF, but also of who we are at UPF”.

“Over the past few weeks, and even before, I have often perceived a sense of pessimism about the future of the University, brought about by two complementary processes. On the one hand, the crystallization of an almost systemic situation of economic frailty and regulatory rigidity that act as a brake and restrict our ability to react, update and anticipate in the face of this changing context [...]. On the other, the profound transformation of the field of higher education and, more specifically, the appearance of new private actors that threaten the position of the public universities and point to the possible disappearance of many of them”.

“I propose that we be committed, openly and without complexes, to optimism. Don’t get me wrong. I am quite aware that universities must face important challenges in the coming years that affect us as institutions and society as a whole. That is why my proposal, my invitation, is not to embrace naive or empty optimism, but to adopt and nurture critical optimism, realistic and constructive optimism”.

“My commitment to the University is firm, with a certain way of doing and being. A commitment to a programme that we want to be bold, innovative, respectful of the legacies of all of the people who have preceded us leading the University that I am inheriting that, both I and my team will work to improve and enrich [...]. A commitment also, surely more important, to the entire UPF community and to people’s well-being [...]. And a third commitment to the other Catalan universities and to our university system”.

“Internally, I would like in four years’ time for the UPF community to recall as a distant memory the false debate between good teaching and good research and, on the basis of their diversity, for each and every one of the departments and faculties to be very proud of what they do and of their huge contributions to both the university and to society”.

“In a broader sense, I would like my fellow rectors and myself, along with the minister and his team, to focus our actions on everything that allows us to grow the university, on everything that grows the university , not on everything that makes the university possible”.

“The new management team is starting work today with enthusiasm and with the desire take the right decisions and carry out the right actions. We assume the legacy of those who have preceded us, which we will strive to improve and enrich. Now it is time to start a process of reflection and define the priorities and actions that we will be presenting shortly with the desire to arouse and involve the entire community in UPF’s progress”.

Speech by Joaquim Nadal

The last speech was given by Joaquim Nadal, Catalan minister of Research and Universities.

Excerpts from the speech by Joaquim Nadal

“Today is a special day: it is one of the ‘watershed’ days; one rector is leaving, and one rector is arriving. As of today, after the speech you have made as rector, it is your day, Laia”.

“This is a country, and humanity in general, that tends to be ungrateful, that forgets people and erases them from the map very easily. We must remember that we would be nothing if we were not the result of our own past [...] Traditions, like nations, are not born, they are made, and they are made by people”.

“There is a Pompeu model, un foundation, a solidity, a humanity, a group of people entwined that has built it ups since its origins, those of today and those of its future. We must soak up all of this baggage like a sponge”.

“There must be a positive and optimistic pride in valuing our university and research system. In relative terms, its value far exceeds the amount we have spent, what it costs [...]. Let’s dispel the cloud of atavistic pessimism and adopt a positive spirit to move forward”.

“We must be self-critical and recognize the problems and inflexibility of the system, many of them not attributable to the university system. There’s a little more money, but it’s not enough”.

“From the budget of the Catalan Government, the 1,600 million euros for the Catalan system of universities and research are the best spent and most taken advantage of”.

“All the work done at research centres, faculties, departments, institutes, teaching and research, has a target: society as a whole. The policy on universities is at the service of things public, of the res publica”.

“The government is committed to advancing, with a constructive, positive, progressive spirit, and as critical as is required. Criticism and doubt give rise to gradual progress in the field of science and knowledge”.

The ceremony ended with the performance of Gaudeamus igitur by the UPF Choir.

Profile of the new rector

Laia de Nadal (Barcelona, 1972) graduated in Veterinary Medicine from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and later did her doctorate in the same discipline, specializing in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, in 2000. She later did postdoctoral research stays studies as a Ramón y Cajal researcher at Pompeu Fabra University and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich.

She is currently a full professor with the Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS) at Pompeu Fabra University. She teaches on the bachelor’s degrees in Human Biology and Biomedical Engineering, and also supervises several doctoral theses.

Regarding research, she co-directs the Cell Signaling and Transcription Research Group affiliated to the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona, which studies how cells respond and adapt to changes in their environment. The group focuses on characterizing the signalling process, biological targets and the regulation of physiological functions such as cell cycle and the expression of the genes required for organisms to adapt to stress. She also sits on several scientific boards and has been awarded the ICREA Acadèmia in the editions of 2012 and 2020.

In the field of management, she has been deputy director at the Department of Health and Life Sciences, and since May 2021 she has held the position of vice-rector for Knowledge Transfer at UPF.

The governing team that will accompany the new rector

  • Vice-rector for Teaching and Research Staff: Pablo Pareja
  • Vice-rector for Academic Planning and Students: Sergi Torner
  • Vice-rector for Research: Cristina Pujades
  • Vice-rector for Knowledge Transfer: Vanesa Daza
  • Vice-rector for Internationalization: Helena Ramalhinho
  • Vice-rector for Culture and Communication: Raquel Bouso
  • Vice-rector for Social Commitment and Sustainability: Eva Pujadas
  • Commissioner for Language Policy: Marcel Mauri
  • Commissioner for Science Policy: José García Montalvo
  • Commissioner for the UPF Group: Carles Ramió
  • Commissioner of the Planetary Wellbeing Project: Josep Lluís Martí
  • General secretary: Enric Vallduví
  • General manager: Oriol Escardíbul
  • Head of the Rector’s Office: Eulàlia Solé 

The rector will be appointing the remaining members of her governing team in the coming days.

Photo gallery of the Ceremony

Presa de possessió de Laia de Nadal com a rectora de la UPF


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