Mexican innovation for higher education

With unemployment rates steadily falling in Mexico since 2009, further education institutions are looking to prepare students for an adaptable future

September 4, 2012

The Universidad Politécnica de San Luis Potosí (UPSLP) was founded in 2001, and built to establish the growing demand for higher education in Mexico. By focusing on the current economic climate, the university has developed core subjects to develop business knowledge and training. The academic programmes have been designed to meet present and future business needs, by utilising cutting edge science and technology, so both students and professors are able to train in high-quality conditions. The curriculum is consistent with national and international standards of higher education, which accredits agencies, articulating theory and practice.

UPSLP is a public university dependent upon the local government, endowed with legal status and its own resources. The general objectives are: to promote and convey higher education in its different levels and modalities; to organise, encourage and conduct research as well as technological, scientific and humanistic development; and to promote the spread of knowledge and culture that contribute to impel, diversify and balance the regional, state and national development.

Created for durability
Designed for 5,000 attending students, currently there are 4,400 students enrolled in six different programmes in the fields of industrial systems, manufacturing, IT, telecommunications, business and marketing. UPSLP is part of a higher education system in Mexico, the Subsystem of Polytechnic Universities, which is newer and one of the most dynamic in public universities in the country.

To achieve its academic goals, UPSLP has looked to develop the most convenient and propitious infrastructure for university work, by allowing the incorporation of front-edge technological equipment required by the educational programmes to fully develop the activities inherent to the academic model.

This way, the university sought to develop an optimal educational infrastructure that may aid the implementation of main activities defined in the academic model, which features a focus towards the development of competences. Having spaces and equipment enabling practices is essential for the application of knowledge and acquisition of skills, including their certification. For this purpose the Advanced Manufacturing, New Technologies, International Business, Information and Documentation Centres have been created.

Technological development
A process of meaningful learning facilitated by a variety of teaching and learning strategies requires spaces, furniture and materials. Classrooms, study halls for individual and group work, laboratories and audio-visual rooms are all available to maximise student learning. Academic monitoring and a tutoring system requires suitable spaces for teachers and tutors, enabling each to carry out their activities effectively.

The educational programmes emphasise a solid base of training in mathematics, sciences, English, and information technologies, which incorporates specific science, computing and mathematical simulation laboratories, and a self-access English language centre. All of these methods link industry and technological development through the use of equipment and infrastructure, which greatly impacts the positive training of students.

Devising institutional management for continuous improvement requires infrastructure suitable for the development of activities, including school services, communication and promotion, administrative services, and strong attention to students and professors.

Having a complete, modern and appropriate campus was one of the elements that encouraged UPSLP to strengthen and consolidate its academic activities, meeting the needs of the university community, reinforcing the organisational environment in a timely manner, invigorating a sense of community based on performance standards, and always striving to maintain a high level of quality in the provision of educational services.

Creating a collaborative future
The model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was evaluated and finally adopted as a way to build the UPSLP campus. A PPP scheme provides an opportunity to increase private sector participation in the provision of high-quality services under competitive conditions for public education institutions. The advantages of UPSLP contracting services with the private sector through a PPP instrument are:
– The ability to operate with services intended to offer quality and reliability under competitive conditions;
– To make sure services can be received on time;
– To allow the university to concentrate on academic issues;
– To assure the completion of strategic plan objectives.

The project involves a complete university campus, so UPSLP is unique: some PPPs are only partial. Whether just a building, laboratory, or sports facility, UPSLP involves all facilities for university work. It is also the first PPP project in the public higher education system in Mexico. The PPP project includes design, construction, basic equipment and operation of the university campus by the private sector. The contract extends over a continuous period of 20 years. The campus includes 40,000 square metres of construction and is built in a surface of almost 16 hectares of land.

Constructing business bridges
Developing a scheme to build alliances with world-class companies and institutions, UPSLP also extends to reinforce the educational formation process of students by offering certifications in specialised technologies, primarily based in the industrial information, technology and communications fields. This scheme has allowed the competences-based education model of the university to be carried out in a very specific and distinctive way for students’ educational skills. During their time at the university, students acquire skills that complement theory with tools and technologies, which are recognised by their professional field and certified by national and international organisations and companies. During its first 10 years of operations, UPSLP has delivered more than 20,000 certifications to students reflecting the command of different technological tools, from companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and FESTO.

The efforts made by UPSLP to provide adequate infrastructure that responds to the requirements of its educational programmes has been a determining factor for strengthening the academic performance of students, providing them with a profound mastery of technologies and practical training. To achieve these academic goals, UPSLP has sought to develop infrastructure conducive to business. The university incorporates up-to-date technological equipment that responds to the requirements of its educational programmes, and integrates professors with high academic profiles. These resources, which consist of 43 basic and specialised laboratories, support the activities of teaching, applied research, and linking productive sectors with the diffusion of technologies.

Stronger state and national participation
The university has promoted an institutional management approach focused on the rising needs from the development of academic attention. The provision of specialised academic equipment, services of a modern computing platform, as well as the institutionalisation of practices that encourage continuous improvement and innovation, have been distinctive aspects of institutional management.

UPSLP has collaborated with other universities and research centres, and through cooperation projects, has strengthened participation in the state and national education system, as well as scientific and technological research. UPSLP has built links and connections with industrial and business sectors in San Luis Potosi, which has become very dynamic in recent years. Expanding links with international research networks, UPSLP promotes the creation of a new consortium called EUROLAT, which includes universities from Poland, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Chile and Mexico, where UPSLP currently holds the Vice Presidency for Latin America.

Through the activities that UPSLP is developing, supported by the PPP model, the university is contributing to economic development in the region. Specifically:
– to strengthen capacities of the higher education state system contributing to social and economic development with a long-term vision;
– to attend shortages or growth in the demand of higher education in the state;
– to offer quality in the educative services of the institution; and
– to optimise public resources through long-term planning of academic requirements of the institution.

Internationalisation for greater development
The university consolidates tasks to form competent professionals who are distinguished by their contribution to the development of San Luis Potosí and Mexico, recognised in their fields of professional activity and in the community. The university’s intellectual development attracts high quality students and professors. Utilising technology for academic work, UPSLP remains at the forefront of incorporation and use of new technologies in training, research and management processes. As a result, UPSLP develop strategic activities in the field of technological innovation, and actively participate in the regional innovation system, carrying out joint projects with businesses and governments, offering high levels of training, consulting services and technological development. This allows students to be part of academic collaboration groups, in national and international networks, and to contribute to cutting-edge technology topics.

One of UPSLP’s main upcoming strategic plans is to develop further internationalisation. In a global world, the university appreciates the importance of strong relationships and joint collaborations with other institutions and organisations worldwide, where students and professors are able to explore a global perspective in their academic work.