Six researchers from Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla
) are now permanently based in Geneva working on the world-famous Large Hadron Collider (CERN) project that aims to replicate conditions immediately after the Big Bang. “This is one of the most important research projects in the world. It is pure physics and extremely difficult to understand. But it is very important for the profile of the university that we are involved in research at the highest level,” says Dr. Enrique Agüera Ibañez, Rector of BUAP.
Founded in 1578 by Jesuits in the colonial city of Puebla, BUAP became a public college in 1825 and was later established as a public university in 1937. It has been an independent, publicly funded institution since the 1950s, dedicated to promoting inclusive educational values across the region. “Universities have a different challenge to other institutions because ultimately education is linked to knowledge, and this has been the main factor in the evolution of humanity,” says Dr. Agüera.
“Quality education is a vital component in achieving social transformation and opening up opportunities for the vast majority of citizens in any country. In Mexico, national public policy on education, science and technology is increasingly reflecting the socially transformative power of education.”
According to the rector, Mexico is a country in transition and quality education will provide Mexicans with the tools necessary to ensure its society continues to improve. He says, “Mexico is a very young country, so there is enormous pressure on the national educational system. Our universities currently have the capacity to admit only about 30% of applicants, but the government is funding a growth in capacity to raise this to 50%.”
“Ultimately education is linked to knowledge, and this has been the main factor in the evolution of humanity.”
Dr. Enrique Agüera Ibañez, Rector of BUAP
All courses at BUAP have received external accreditation in recognition of their educational quality. Currently, around 77,000 students are enrolled at the university, representing a rise of more than 23% compared to five years ago.
The oldest and largest university in Puebla, BUAP is situated in four main areas of the city. Many of BUAP’s downtown buildings in its Area Centro (Central Area) zone were once colonial-era landmarks. In addition, the university has three other main zones in the city: the Ciudad Universitaria (University City), which is located in the south-east of Puebla and holds BUAP’s main headquarters; the Area Salud (Health Area), home to the University Hospital; and the Area Angelopolis, which is the university’s newest location and features a comprehensive library holding a completely digitized catalogue. In 2008 a cutting-edge cultural center opened its doors at the complex and includes a 3,600-seat auditorium, 700-seat theater, cinema screens, a convention center, restaurants, bookshops and an art gallery.
“Puebla could potentially become the second most important city in Mexico, after the capital. It has health, education and technology development clusters that are bringing out the nation’s talent,” says Dr. Agüera. “Universities here have a national profile. Indeed, BUAP is one of the best institutions in Latin America; it is exceptional. We are the only higher education institution to be audited by international ratings agencies, who have recognized BUAP as a financially sound institution.”
In 1995, BUAP began opening a network of regional centers beyond the city of Puebla to widen access to its courses across the state, and there are now 12 of these learning hubs offering educational programs. The university is also adapting many of its courses to distance learning methods to extend their reach not only nationwide, but also internationally.
At any given time, up to 800 students from BUAP are overseas attending some of the 230 institutions linked to the university, mostly in the U.S., Spain and the U.K. Professors at BUAP also make international visits, and more than a third of the full-time faculty now hold a doctorate, compared to a few years ago when just over a quarter held such a qualification.
Every year, groups of researchers from different disciplines at BUAP come together to work on common objectives on a megaproject financed by the National Council for Science and Technology. For example, for last year’s project opened a center for research into infectious diseases that brought together the skills of more than 370 high-profile researchers. “We need to find answers to the great demands of society,” says Dr. Agüera. “I would say the megaprojects we have done in the BUAP, at the university’s cultural complex, have allowed us to change the paradigm of the relationship between the university and society. For our 100-acre City of Science and Knowledge, I spent two years focusing my efforts on finding out and interpreting what is happening in other countries, visiting technology parks, etc., and we are carrying out research in automotive engineering, textile engineering and biotechnology, among other areas.”