For years now, on a recurring basis, I have devoted myself to presenting my vision on the importance of the development of training in all its variants for every society, including Andorra. In fact, reviewing my newspaper archive, I find articles written at the beginning of the 2015-2019 and 2019-2023 legislature periods, which highlighted everything that training, especially professional, and university could bring us. It’s funny how time passes, and the message from 8 years ago is still valid!
Since then, what has happened is that basically two international schools, that attend the new and growing expat community, have arrived, 4 online universities have been established, the school of hospitality and tourism in form of in-person learning and, of course, the University of Andorra has developed enough to require a larger space and has begun to attract international students who, by attending face-to-face studies, have revealed the need for student residences.
The question that needs to be asked now is whether this educational proposal, strongly favored by the university side towards “online” training, is sufficient for a prosperous development of the educational sector in Andorra and above all, whether it is the most effective for social progress and economic of the country.
To begin with, what is clear is that Andorra has developed over the years an educational strategy adapted to the particular circumstances of the country, taking into account both the population and territorial dimension and the status of the geographical enclave between Spain and France. The variety of educational offer at primary and secondary level, with the Andorran, French, Spanish, confessional system, and international private system, today fit with the increasingly varied demand in the field of university studies, derived from the growth of a population, national and of expats.
Andorra has historically been characterized by exporting students abroad, in the absence of a sufficiently diversified offer in the country. In recent years, however, due to the efforts to improve the educational offer of the University of Andorra and to the arrival of several universities of virtual studies, the Carlemany University, the European University, the Humanium International University and recently the Western Europe University, the increase in university students has been boosted.
However, despite the fact that Andorra still has a long way to go to achieve an ecosystem of face-to-face university studies consolidated “offline”, which at the same time allows the enhancement of research and investigation at the level of other countries in the European environment, the Andorran university world, strengthened by the arrival of new international institutions, is trying to organize itself as a university educational hub and now a year ago the Associació Sant Julià de Lòria Campus Universitari (ACU) was founded, with the idea of turning the parish in a reference in the university field, and to which all the new university projects that are being installed in the country will gradually be incorporated.
The sensitive point, however, remains the educational model offer in this new university ecosystem, and here we are facing the dichotomy of offline versus online studies. Four years ago, reviewing the newspaper library again and in defense of strengthening the offline model, I had the audacity to imagine how a university campus nurtured at the beginning with a thousand students could affect the GDP of the country plus the proportional part of teachers, obviously teaching different specialties in the offline modality, and today I can only repeat myself in that example, for me totally current, but obviously projected over time in a progressive way and adapted to the possibilities of the country. This approach could have an initial economic impact of around 50 million euros per year, taking into account the residence
needs of students and teachers, the consumption of both, the cost of tuition fees, the visits of family members, and a whole series of indirect summative factors, including the social interaction of this entire group and the international projection of this new offline face-to-face campus as a quality and differential offer in the European educational context. Of course, there will be those who will say that the country is not ready to welcome these new thousand students and teachers, adding the current shortcomings of the real estate park, but this is a conditional problem if we start from the basis of the different residence building initiatives that are already being studied.
8 years ago, we already indicated, and today we ratify it more strongly, if necessary, that the real development of the world of university studies would only reach its fullness with the association agreement with the EU. In this sense, and despite the fact that Andorra belongs to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), there is still a whole series of technical studies that cannot be consolidated in the country until Andorra benefits from the automatic recognition of degrees by acceding to EU member countries. It is for this reason I argue that Andorra’s Association Agreement with the EU can do a lot to attract in the future international university entities that want to settle in the country to develop face-to-face training programs of high added value and that they will boost research and investigation in the country, which ultimately is what gives prestige to a university institution.
I am aware that this is an issue on the agenda of the Andorran negotiators, especially the one deriving from Directive 2005/36/EC of September 7, 2005, aware of the importance of the potential application of the automatic recognition of qualifications obtained in Andorra in fields such as architecture, pharmacy, dentistry, medicine, or nursing. Precisely the latter has many possibilities to be included in Annex VII of the association agreement and therefore to be considered with an automatic recognition title of those provided for in Annex V of the reference Directive.
When our governors talk about the advantages of this very valuable approach to the EU, I think they still underestimating and that we need to be more explicit about what the opportunity to welcome educational initiatives and students from all over the world can represent for Andorran, European and worldwide perspective. For this reason, a need to create the appropriate communication mechanisms to give international visibility to what Andorra can offer as a smart country experience in the development of knowledge through the best instruments for this purpose such as the University, be it online or even better offline, or both in harmony and forming part of a whole at the service of this noble cause.
In short, the coexistence between an online university and a consolidated offline university can contribute to the creation of a complete and unique educational offer that helps us compete with guarantees of success in the complex European education market.
It is so inspiring to imagine an Andorran university ecosystem with a massive presence of top-level educators, students and researchers living among us and helping in a significant way to the economic and social progress of the country.
What a stimulating way to continue making Marca Andorra!
By Pere Augé, CEO and Founding Partner of Augé Holding Group
Tel. +376 80 36 36
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