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Rector: "The most effective governments support their universities, establish scholarship programmes and attract international talent".

Alfonso Sánchez Tabernero highlighted the collaboration between institutions as "a great opportunity to promote prosperity, cohesion and scientific and cultural development in Navarre".

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PHOTO: Manuel Castells
06/09/19 13:27 Isabel Rincón

"The most efficient and intelligent governments in the world support their universities, establish scholarship programmes with good economic endowments aimed at students with fewer resources, favour the attraction of international talent and establish basal funding formulas for the most promising research centres". These were the words of Alfonso Sánchez Tabernero during the opening ceremony of the 2019-20 academic year. The rector underlined the respect and collaborative activity between universities and other institutions as points of support to promote progress in society. "Navarre has an excellent university system, with high quality centres, which provide a wide range of teaching, and which work in great harmony. The Public University of Navarre, the UNED and the University of Navarre are a great opportunity to promote prosperity, cohesion and scientific and cultural development in Navarre". 

At 10 a.m. a mass was celebrated by the auxiliary bishop of Pamplona, Monsignor Juan Antonio Aznárez. The academic ceremony then began with the parade of 225 doctors from the different faculties to the Aula Magna of the Central Building. Among other authorities in attendance were the President of the Government of Navarre, María Chivite; the President of the Parliament of Navarre, Unai Hualde; the Regional Minister for Universities, Juan Cruz Cigudosa; the Mayor of Pamplona, Enrique Maya; the President of the High Court of Justice of Navarre, Joaquín Galve; the Attorney General, José Antonio Sánchez; the Rector of the Public University of Navarre, Ramón Gonzalo and Carmén Jusué, Director of the UNED in Pamplona. The musical part of the ceremony was performed by the choir of the Bidasoa International Ecclesiastical College.  

The importance of precision nutrition

The Secretary General, Gonzalo Robles, took the floor first to detail the most significant figures and data of the activity at the University during the 2018-19 academic year. Afterwards, Professor of Nutrition and President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, Alfredo Martínez Hernández, gave the inaugural lecture, based on the latest advances towards precision nutrition, as part of personalised medicine.

Alfredo Martínez spoke about Nutrigenetics, or the study of the interaction of genes with nutrition and specific foods. He also referred to precision nutrition, which studies the genetic components of the individual and other variables such as medical history, age, sex, physical activity, psycho-emotional and social state, in order to achieve more effective assessments and personalised diets.

This new concept thus achieves improvements in health and advances in the individualised treatment of people with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological, digestive and kidney diseases, as well as oncology patients.

"A personalised diet with distinctive genome-based dietary approaches could be an effective way of medically controlling weight and prescribing diets with different macronutrient composition. This has been the subject of several University of Navarra patents, some of which have been licensed to a pharmaceutical laboratory in Navarra, so its application today is not utopian but a promising reality," he explained.

The professor pointed out that one of the most notable scientific advances in the field of medical nutrition is precisely the development of the so-called nutriomic sciences, which address the global study of genes for a better understanding of metabolism and the diagnosis of health or prognosis of disease, with the aim of prescribing precision nutrition exclusively for each person. "A balanced dietary nutrition is the main element not only in the maintenance of health, but also in the prevention and treatment of disease, as recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO)," he said.

Educational innovation, research and collaboration between institutions

The rector's speech concluded the academic ceremony. The vocation of service, educational innovation, the commitment to research and collaboration between universities and institutions were the focus of Alfonso Sánchez Tabernero's words. The rector advocated continuing to promote innovative and formative teaching programmes that attract students from all over the world. "Three figures show that we are making progress in this direction: the average mark of the 2,200 students who began their degree studies last September was 8.11 out of 10; the students' evaluation of their university experience last year was 4.1 out of 5 and international students now account for more than 25%," he said.

He then referred to the good news that closed the 18-19 academic year, the third place obtained by the University of Navarra in the Times Higher Education ranking for teaching, behind the Oxford and Cambridge campuses.

Sánchez Tabernero had words of remembrance for the first rector of the University, Professor Ismael Sánchez Bella, who passed away in December 2018. "It seems like a funny joke or an act of poetic justice that, a few months after the death of Don Ismael, this small Estudi General that he started six decades ago has appeared in a ranking alongside the two legendary English universities that he longed to resemble".

Among other academic novelties, he cited new master's programmes that are being launched: the Executive Master's in Big Data Science and the Master's in Business Management Pharmabio Tech, in the Alumni building in Madrid, and the Master's in Management, at IESE.  

A major commitment of the Clinic

In addition to teaching innovation, the Rector highlighted the research projects carried out by the University, which are increasingly interdisciplinary and with larger teams, and which have obtained new funding, both from public calls for proposals and from the business sector.

He went on to discuss an ambitious project of the Clínica, which in the coming months will set up a large proton radiotherapy infrastructure in Madrid. "This is a technological innovation, a pioneer in our country, which will allow us to initiate a new line of frontier research, with the aim of finding effective therapies against cancer". Sánchez Tabernero stated that the Clínica has consolidated its presence in Madrid, while maintaining its level of activity in Pamplona and recalled the first place achieved for the fifth consecutive year in the MERCO index of the reputation of private hospitals in Spain. 

In this regard, he cited IESE's leadership, at the top of the Financial Times' world ranking for executive education, and that, according to The Economist, it offers the best MBA programme in Europe. "These awards encourage us to continue undertaking projects with a vocation for service, such as the research centres, the Art Museum and the Madrid campus, where eleven master's programmes will be offered this academic year," he said.

"We are and always will be a University that aspires to be at the frontier of science, with a vocation of service, non-profit, committed to the intellectual and personal growth of students and inspired by the great proposals of Christian thought to face contemporary challenges," he concluded. 

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