UJAT can trace its origins back to 1874 when the then-President Benito Juarez granted money to establish Instituto Juarez. In 1958, it became a university and eight years later it gained its autonomy, becoming the Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco. As a leading public institution of higher learning, UJAT is playing an essential role in creating a strong and well-prepared workforce that draws from all economic classes in a country where, come 2013, a record-breaking number of 14.9 million youth will be of university age.
According to UJAT Rector Dr Jose Manuel Piña, the university has concentrated on raising the quality of its courses – which cover the entire spectrum of fields – to the highest level recognised by the Inter-institutional Committees for the Evaluation of Higher Education (CIEES), the official entity of the Public Education Ministry.
“For six consecutive years we received the Award for Quality in Education. Last year, however, we managed to have 100% of our programmes accredited at Level One,” explains Dr Piña.
He also highlights the university’s ever-increasing connections with foreign institutions. “The best way to reach internationalisation is by mobilising professors and students,” he says, adding that UJAT granted full scholarships to 600 students last year, of which 30 per cent went abroad to study fields in which the foreign university specialises and are highly relevant to Mexico and Zacatecas, in particular.
For example, at New Zealand’s Massey University, students can focus on livestock studies; at the University of Aberdeen, oil; at the University of Texas, agriculture and agro-industry; and at the University of Rio de Janeiro, deep-sea and livestock studies.
UJAT also has entered into an agreement with Cambridge University to develop a university benchmark project along with participants from all over the world. Dr Piña explains: “Rankings are important, yet each university must attend to its own particular problems that may not necessarily be in the world rankings. An encyclopaedia of universities of global excellence would allow universities to seek out alliances according to their specific needs.”
Closer to home, UJAT is collaborating with UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and CONACYT (National Council of Science and Technology) to establish a Centre for Global Change and Sustainability, focused mainly on the areas of water, energy and biodiversity. This project brings students and professors into close contact with researchers who are considered experts in their respective fields.