The rector of UBB Cluj: “Companies want young people who are not very trained, because they pay them less, on the Chinese model”

Daniel David, the re-elected rector of UBB Cluj, claims that education must not adapt to the “Chinese model”, in which companies, who want to optimize their profit, ask for young people who are not very well trained, with limited specializations.

The rector re-elected for the next 5 years of UBB, Daniel David. PHOTO: UBB

The rector of UBB, Daniel David, obtained, at the end of last week, a new mandate at the head of the most complex university in Romania. The university has a community of about 50,000 people in 12 counties of the country.

David, who ran alone for the post of rector for the next five years and obtained 90% of the votes cast, presented to “Adevărul” some of his priorities.

The truth: Where is Babeș-Bolyai University located now?

Daniel David: I think we are the only university in the country that says that the research activity is at the center of the academic activity, almost all the others say that the educational activity is at the center. We say that the generation of knowledge is the most important, and if you put it at the center of academic activity, then the relationship with education becomes one of a different kind. That is, we co-create education with our students, and our graduates are people who know things, but they will know how to learn new things and in 5 or 10 years, they will know how to generate science, they will know how to understand science.

The university is set in the right direction with the right meaning. We were certified by the British company QS through an international audit, which confirmed that UBB has the status of a world class university.

“We are in the world class league, but far from the top”

What do you mean?

When I say world class, I understand that we have entered that league, but we are far from the top of the league. It's like in football. That's the analogy I use a lot. Many teams qualify for the Champions League, but many remain on the outside. Of those that qualify for the Champions League, not all win and not all can compare in performance and budget to Real Madrid or Barcelona. That's how we are in the league of worldclass universities. We are there, but we are still far in performance from the top there, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford. We are very far, but we have similar shapes, the shapes, the architecture, the general mechanisms are similar. The content, however, is low compared to these international peaks.

My bet now is that in these good ways we start to increase the content, depending on a number of factors, one of the most important of which is the budget. UBB has an OK budget for Romania, but it is not OK for international rankings. The budget of the last ranking university in Shanghai is several times bigger than our budget, so money matters and we will fight to get a bigger budget.

What was the budget for the last year of UBB?

The UBB budget in this mandate (2000-2024) was the first or second among Romanian universities, because we attracted a lot of students, a lot of grants. It is around 170 million euros annually, so almost as much as all the universities in Cluj. So it is a university that has a large budget for Romania. But when I compare with Harvard's budget of billions or 10 times that of other universities in Shanghai.

What other factors are important?

So the budget matters, but the legislation matters a lot too. Many times, the legislation confuses you, and in Romania it is not designed according to the world class model, but according to the old model in which the universities come and say that their first function is that of education. They, in addition to education, also do scientific research, and some also do entrepreneurial elements, but the law is not designed for world class universities.

Are there other factors?

The third factor that we depend on to grow in the good ways that we have is the human resource. We are who we are, to use a cutting like that. We don't have 20 Nobel laureates, three with Abel prizes, etc

We have to be the best we can be, and the fact that we've created those set career paths that give everyone the chance to project themselves where they want helps. You are not very interested and very good at research, please be very good at education, in the relationship with students. If neither motivates you, be good to society. And to bring after us better people than us. And then we will see, we will gradually grow in this league.

“The economy wants to save money”

Your program for the next term is called “Q Optimum”. Why did you choose this name?

It comes from the fact that we are faced with “questions”, with major questions, the whole academic environment is changing internationally. The old paradigms are collapsing, the old traditional programs bachelor 3-4 years or I don't know 6 in medicine, master's – 1-2 years, doctorate – 3-4 years, post-doctorate- 1-2 years. Some of the structure remains, but other mechanisms emerge.

Because there is talk of a change in the way the economy works…

The economy wants to save money. The economy will collapse under the guise of the new paradigm if it does not retain much of the old paradigm. To use a metaphor, it's exactly like we did with China. We took a lot of major industries there for Europe, including semiconductors or automobiles. It was cheaper in China. We thought that in the short term we are getting rich, that is, those who had the businesses are getting rich. And now we are thinking about what we are doing so that the European economy does not collapse.

So the same thing happens here. Companies want young people who study less, are not very well trained, because they have to be paid a higher salary. It's like you're going to start training people who administer antidepressant medication without being psychiatrists. I only train you in antidepressant medication. To force things, they want graduates to do some surgery without being surgeons. The so-called life coaches have appeared in psychology, I don't know, who have the skills of a psychologist without being a psychologist, which will create major problems in the market.

And then how do you see the future of university education?

I agree that traditional programs need to be supplemented with these modern developments, but as I said, they need to be supplemented. It is allowed to give up one or the other, because if we only go with the traditional ones, we break in a way the dynamics of the labor market, but if we blindly throw ourselves into short-term, cheap occupations, only to help the employer -pay our graduates cheaper, in the short term, the employer will win. In the medium and long term we all lose, because expertise will be low, skills will be low and we will start looking for our old experts.

“A good specialist and a good citizen”

What message do you have for students considering coming to UBB? What will Babeș-Bolyai University prepare them for in a constantly changing labor market? They say we don't know today what jobs will be in 10 years…

Precisely because we have the world class model and we don't think in the logic of “Come to us” and for 3 years we tell you “Sit down and write”, and when you finish college, you are very good in the field that day, but because you don't you are able to understand knowledge generation, you are not able to understand science, in 3-4 years you are overtaken by the development of knowledge in the field.

At UBB you are not trained in this logic, you are trained as a graduate, a good specialist, who knows things very well at the time of graduation, but is a person who knows what continuous training means. Science is continuously developing, constantly developing. He still goes and does a two-week course on a new IT program and learns it, because he did a very good IT program at UBB for three or 4 years.

I didn't just do that after the Baccalaureate, a training in an Academy of X, for six months, which teaches you to do only one thing. So you will be trained as a good specialist, who not only adapts to the labor market now, also adapts in the future, who creates labor markets, who can change the labor market and, at the same time, as we say, a good citizen, a protector of democracy, or should be a voice for democracy.