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$10 million project opens up a whole world of possibilities to advance Peru’s mining sector

Interview - August 4, 2015

Hochschild Mines promote education in partnership with MIT, Pardue, and Stanford. 


Christine Lagarde has defined Peru as one of the brightest economies in Latin America. However, a country’s development can’t be only measured in terms of economic growth indicators and the number of infrastructure projects launched. We should consider the Human Development Index, in which education plays a key role. From your experience and knowledge, how has the economic growth been reflected on the Peruvian education quality? Do you believe enough has been done? What do you think should be done in order to encourage it?

Unfortunately, the economic growth of the last two decades hasn’t been accompanied by an increase in the quality of Peruvian education to prepare a much more productive workforce.

Investment in education is currently the greatest challenge for Peru in order to achieve more attractive growth rates. Although our country is doing better compared to other countries in the region in terms of growth rates, they are not the ideal ones.

The economy should grow at a 6% rate to be able to reduce poverty and ensure the improvement of the citizens’ quality of life. Peruvian growth was mainly due to the country’s opening to the global market and the increasing prices of primary products.

Our economy showed annual growth rates of 6% to 9% that seemed prosperous enough, and made a revolution in the field of education look unnecessary. Nowadays, this perception has completely changed.

Today we are certain that only by perusing excellence in our education system, from the initial level to universities, will we be able to have a more productive and specialized workforce that will attract investments in different fields, and not only in those activities related to the extraction of natural resources.

Peru is in a very low position regarding the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) index. And when it comes to universities, Peruvian universities aren’t well ranked either.

This makes dynamic and sustained growth very difficult to achieve for the country as its workforce lacks competitiveness and productiveness.

Nevertheless, there have been some major changes in the education system, especially since Minister Saavedra took office. President Humala has accompanied this process by increasing significantly the budget for education.

During the past few years, investments in infrastructure within the education sector increased considerably, plus teachers’ salaries went up; there is a meritocracy system now and university regulations have been improved.

I believe these measures that make us get closer to a better education will have a positive effect but a more aggressive strategy is needed.

As former president of the Conferencia Anual de Ejecutivos, you know very well Peru’s private sector. How is it that the country’s largest companies got involved in education?

The discussion about education started in the private sector but it was taken, in my opinion, very lightly due to the extraordinary growth rate the country was experiencing.

Despite this, today we can say that the whole Peruvian society, from the bank director to the mother that lives on 300 soles ($94) monthly, is concerned and understands the need for an improvement in education in Peru.

Lately we have perceived a greater amount of private investment in education, UTEC being a clear example of this.

At the university we believe in the importance of making the most of those unique moments in the industry when it’s possible to introduce a disruptive change; such a unique opportunity hasn’t existed since Gutenberg’s press invention.

When an event of such importance happens, the rules of the game are redefined and you can make a move that gives you an enormous advantage.

This could be easily compared to a traffic situation where you are following the line of cars but suddenly you notice that a new lane has opened up so you decide to use that new alternative lane.

If you are the first one on the new lane you’ll be able to pass many cars quickly. But we’re now following this nature of changes. Firstly, because it’s been proved that the methods we use in education today are in fact some of the worst.

The scene of a professor standing at the front of a university class repeating what the book says is not that different from the way Plato taught his students at the Academy.

Sadly, this method is proven to generate the same brain stimulus as a soap opera. Moreover, two-thirds of what we learn through it will be forgotten in the next three years.

So, naturally, there’s a big debate around the issue of how we learn. Secondly, there’s information technology (IT) that represents a disruptive change in education.

So, Peru has to benefit from these changes and leave its line towards a new lane; this is somehow what UTEC wants to encourage society to do.

In the short period of five years, UTEC has reached more agreements with American universities than any other university in Latin America. How was this possible in such a short period of time?

At UTEC we have agreements with Harvard University, the MIT, the University of New Mexico and Colorado School of Mines, among others.

This is possible because at the university we strongly believe that we are a platform, not an ivory tower. Plus, we go out searching for opportunities and inviting others to join us in this process of change.

I think this is happening because we have an attractive proposal.

In opposition to Harvard and the MIT, which might have a line of applicants that goes as far as NYC, in UTEC we don’t have one class of graduates.

However, we already have a number of professors doing research with MIT and Harvard professors, and our students are participating in projects with them.

This is possible due to our persistence and our attractive proposition in a moment of disruptive change within the industry.

It’s much more attractive for institutions like Harvard or the MIT to observe a disruptive model of education as ours, rather than a model like their own.

At UTEC and TECSUP, along with the school project MABA, we understand that education is about creating a standout change in society.

Our university is open to any university willing to work with us in Peru.

In October we’re having a summit meeting on engineering. Harvard’s dean is coming, as well as David Gough, who wrote his last book on how to teach engineering, and a Peruvian who handles $2 billion.

The first day will have the typical summit meeting dynamics; people will pay to attend the lectures, and they’ll listen to the speakers and applaud.

But on the second day, the three speakers will be speaking to all the deans of Peruvian engineering universities, for free.

UTEC can’t change Peru on its own, the only way we could achieve this is by convincing others to commit to the change process.

This event will give the unmeasurable opportunity to deans of very small universities of Peru to speak with Harvard’s dean.

UTEC, as Harvard has done, will find profitability in reinventing itself. How will this be sustainable?

We have to be sustainable, but we’re financially blind. This year we fully granted 20 extremely talented students that came from public schools and have all the potential to become stars.

We planned to grant four students initially but we ended up bringing applicants from all regions of Peru.

The applicants spent an entire day with us at the campus visiting different stations, flying drones and testing material resistance with an Audi engineer.

By the end of the day they were asked to give an exam on which the granted 20 students got 92/100 points in average. These young students achieved these excellent levels without any special preparation.

Some of them came from very poor homes for which the bus ticket to the campus is unaffordable.

At TECSUP we have helped financially 40% of our students during the last 30 years. We lend them money that they repay in six to eight years in a very flexible way. We get back 98% of the loans.

This is possible because the founders of this institution are also part of the most important groups of Peru. These companies strongly encourage the creation of more human capital in the country so they can profit from this, right?

Eduardo Hochschild is our university’s greatest promoter. Moreover, he has the support of almost every economic group in Peru and these groups have made their own donations as well.

Major groups need competitive engineers, able to operate in Peru and the world, and they also share the dream of a brighter future for our country.

We feel lucky to have them in this project; they bring to it all their enthusiasm. They are always willing to collaborate with us any time we need them, which gives us great confidence.

Regarding human capital, you are constantly searching for opportunities through programs with the US. How is it possible to find, in Latin America, the talent needed to work with the MIT?

We have a very good relationship with the US Embassy. Only two weeks ago the US Ambassador visited our campus where we signed a Fulbright agreement.

The last two years of studies at UTEC are taught in English, and if it were up to me, all classes would be in English.

Furthermore, we aim for a global platform that can empower itself from the talents that come from different places – that’s why we’d like to receive in Peru students from all Latin America, from all over the world actually.

We should aim for students in Malaysia, South Africa or Ireland to come to study a semester with us. By mixing different talents it’s possible to achieve interesting explosions.

We try to do this with professors as well. We attracted several Peruvian professors with PhDs that were teaching in the US to UTEC by offering them the same as an American university would, but at home.

Currently, an increasing number of professors are showing their interest in coming to our university, from Latin America and beyond.

How are you marketing yourselves in order to capture talented professors and students? How is UTEC positioning itself in Peru, Latin America and the world?

We eagerly search for talent. We make our students feel that at UTEC their talent will be highly appreciated.

On your phone you have Siri, whose creator is a company called Wolfram, to answer all your questions. This company is one of the most sophisticated hi-tech companies in the world and its office in Latin America is in Lima.

And now Wolfram is going to have its office inside the UTEC campus. We’ll provide them with the place and all the services they require as long as Wolfram’s office keeps its doors open to our students to practise there and Wolfram physicists walk around our campus.

Also Harvard has asked for an office on our campus, which we’ll be opening soon.

Regarding the professors, we attract them by offering the opportunity not only to teach but also to do meaningful research that will impact on many people’s lives. Plus, here they have the chance to work with researchers from all over the world.

Currently, we can connect to Cleveland Clinic’s laboratories in a remote way without the need of being there, via a broadband connection. Similarly, we’re trying to work with Australia and Asia.

This way we’d be able to rent and use their laboratories when they’re not using them, thanks to the time difference.

What’s the reason you were selected to lead this project?

I’ve been doing consultancy for 17 years. I was a consultancy and business partner and I had known Eduardo for many years. I had a plan that my partners didn’t believe I could accomplish: by the age of 50 I wanted to devote myself to education.

I think Eduardo saw this and that’s why he offered me the opportunity of leading this project. I understood this was one of those opportunities that come once in a lifetime, so I took it.

This was a unique project than involved investments of more than $10 million and opened up a whole world of possibilities.

Why do you think Minister Saavedra mentioned UTEC as the one university that embodies the change that the Peruvian education system needs?

Minister Saavedra has generated a change in Peru that only a few have generated in the past. He aims to guarantee not the minimum quality of education, but the maximum quality.

UTEC is different from the numerous Peruvian educational institutions that trick both students and parents, and fail in the task of training competitive professionals.

So, I believe Saavedra’s team clearly sees our virtues and our efforts to achieve excellence.