On May 9, HTSI was visited by Rector F. Francisco José Virtuoso, SJ, and Administrative Vice Rector Gustavo García of Andrés Bello Catholic University of Venezuela (UCAB). These guest speakers described the current situation of their home country and university before the educational community of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (URL).
They explained the current situation of economic, social and political chaos in Venezuela, where “80% of families live off of the minimum wage—less than 10 dollars a month—and 51% suffer from structural poverty.” As a result of this situation, waves of migrants have left the country since 2016, with 13.5% of Venezuela’s population currently living abroad.
Nevertheless, the UCAB, a Jesuit university popularly known as “La Católica”, has a “significant commitment to the country, and our teams and researchers help to prepare plans for economic and social recovery.”
“Can we have a viable university in a country that isn’t viable?” asked the guest speakers. In addition to the everyday problems faced by other universities around the world, they have to operate under emergency conditions: “How can you run a university without electricity or water, or when professors and students can’t attend because of a lack of transportation?”
The Venezuelan university has “significant difficulties fixing registration fees that students can afford without affecting the quality of the education we offer”, at an institution where 30% of students receive scholarships.
The rector and vice rector of the UCAB completed their presentation by asserting that in spite of losing 10% of students each year, “we’re proud to have maintained a level of quality, and we’re sure that all of this will only make us stronger in the long run.”
This conference by the leaders of UCAB at HTSI is just one stop on an awareness-raising tour of multiple Jesuit universities in Spain organized by Unijes-Universidades Jesuitas de España (Jesuit Universities of Spain). The rector and vice rector of the UCAB also participated in an event in Barcelona co-organized by HTSI, ESADE and IQS, in addition to visiting the University of Deusto (Bilbao), Comillas Pontifical University (Madrid) and Loyola University Andalusia (Sevilla).
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