España is an excellent country. I love Spain. I love the people, the food, the language. And let’s face it: Spain is a top destination for holidays and every year of millions of people visit it thanks to the weather, the playas, the movida and amazing and unique cultural attractions. Nevertheless, the impression of the stunning sun and sea destination for travellers is as attractive as deceptive when it comes to think about business.
As some may still see Spain as another Latin country, the truth is that Spain is an actual commercial powerhouse that produces and develops inside some of the strongest and hardest industries: cars, steel and wind energy turbines, for example. Besides that, Spain is a stable and highly developed democracy with bilateral agreements with several countries all over the world.
I have been working in Spain for several years now. In the last couple of years, I have been working directly with Universities in Spain. The task is probably the best challenge I had until now. We are talking about one of the biggest countries in Europe, and at the same time a country with a very specific scope when it comes to its regional particularities and differences. Yes!, did you know that Lleida and Lérida are the same city? Do you know where/when to use one or the other? And Catalán, do you speak it? No? Tot va bé… Hablamos en castellano. Or is it español? Well and do not get surprised if someone answers your question in their regional idiom. Even if you are a customer… Yes, don’t get amazed if the cashier from the coffee shop answers you in catalá, gallego or aranés even if you speak with him in español (or is it castellano?).
Like I said I work closely with Universities trying to help them with their timetabling process. Timetabling basically is at the heart of the student experience and the timetabling is really the core procedure in all the academic process, not only because it involves every resource (people, spaces, times, etc.) but also because we are talking about the key point that will break apart the optimized Institutions from the others, and in today’s demanding education climate, Institutions are constantly exploring ways to effectively schedule resources to deliver the academic timetable. Improving student experience and satisfaction, improving available courses, and making the best use of space whilst maintaining academic staff priorities are just some of the challenges faced when delivering a timetable. This interconnection of staff, students, resources and space was illuminating, and highlighted the major challenges that face universities trying to achieve this.
There is still a long way to go when it comes to optimize the timetabling of the Spanish universities. But from my point of view we are already talking passionately about getting better decision support in Institutions, we are already understanding that the vast amount of data being created and accumulated through the timetabling process demands more (much more) than just a spreadsheet of excel and a teacher doing everything by hand. Yes, because in the end, we are just talking about a pivotal and critical part of an Institution’s operation.