Universities in Ecuador and Flanders unite on biodiversity


Country strategy improves cooperation between universities and governments


Las Cajas 2

Ecuador is one of the first countries for which VLIR-UOS has developed a country strategy. In coming years, among other things the university cooperation with Ecuador will focus on biodiversity and natural resources, education, health and migration. The country strategy has already led to structural cooperation between the Ecuadorian universities, which is a first.


A country strategy is a roadmap for future university cooperation. In 2010 VLIR-UOS undertook to limit the number of partner countries to 20 from 2013. VLIR-UOS develops a country strategy for each partner country. Each one reflects the opportunities for cooperation between the country in question and Flanders and forms the frame of reference for drawing up calls and selecting project proposals.


The first country strategies in operation

Following a two-year process of consultation and analysis, VLIR-UOS launched the first country strategies in 2012. Besides Ecuador, they concerned DR Congo, Cuba, Uganda, Tanzania and Vietnam. It was the turn of Ethiopia, South Africa, Burundi and Suriname in 2013.


Ecuador: universities and government build a new society together

A country strategy is based on the needs of the country, particularly national priorities with regard to higher education and combating poverty. It also examines the available expertise and interest for cooperation in Flanders. For Ecuador there is a direct link between the country strategy and the national strategy for improving quality of life.


The Ecuadorian government wants to build a new society without poverty through the ‘Buen Vivir’ plan. Knowledge is an important driver. There are great ambitions, which higher education can help achieve.


Focus on biodiversity and education

In the university cooperation with Ecuador VLIR-UOS wishes to prioritize biodiversity and natural resources, education, health and socio-cultural processes like migration, cultural heritage and diversity in the coming years.


A number of topics are chosen in each field, such as biotechnology, water treatment, food and research-based education, to name just some.


Short and long projects are mutually reinforcing

The institutional cooperation with Cuenca University has an important place in the country strategy for Ecuador. It started in 2007 and is projected to run until 2019. The aim of the programme is to improve quality of life in the southern highlands of Ecuador.


There are also five-year research projects, such as the TEAM project, which is about basic preventive health care in remote Loja.


Biodiversity Network

The theme-based Networks are new at VLIR-UOS. A Biodiversity Network has been set up for Ecuador. The goal is to bring together expertise about biodiversity and to set up an interuniversity master programme in Ecuador about biodiversity and natural resources. The stress is on water management. It will be the first interuniversity master programme in Ecuador.


Within just a few short months the network led to the establishment of REDU, a research network of Ecuadorian universities. In addition to the biodiversity master programme, REDU will also launch two other pilot interuniversity master programmes. masteropleiding in Water Resources EngineeringThe intention is to link up with the international master programme in Water Resources Engineering (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, KU Leuven).


Small project with national impact

The two-year ‘Optimizing Educational Research in Higher Education’ pilot is expected to drive advances in this field in Ecuador. It is a cooperation between Ghent University, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, UCuenca and VVOB. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Education and the network of universities are also involved.


Flemish supervisor Martin Valcke (Ghent University): ‘Without reservation, I can say this project has a national impact. Representatives from sixteen different universities took part in the first workshop. Sessions with hands-on research tools were on the programme. We will be holding a second workshop soon.’


Picture: Peter De Lannoy

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