Strengthening Cooperation With Instituto Technológico de Santo Domingo

Within the framework of Erasmus + International Credit Mobility Programme Dr Zsuzsanna Tarr, Head of Szent István University International and Foreign Relations Centre and Professor Emeritus Dr Márton Jolánkai paid a visit to the Instituto Technológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) in the Dominican Republic between 14th and 20th April 2019. The purpose of the visit was twofold: once to review and evaluate the existing bilateral educational relations as well as student and lecturer exchange activities, and on the other hand, to find new fields for future fields concerning research and educational cooperation.

The history of the recent relations of our institutions may be dated back to 2013. Upon that agreement the first Dominican students have begun studies in Hungary in 2016. It has to be mentioned that the predecessor of our university, Gödöllő University of Agricultural Sciences had also some Dominican students already in the 1960s. Since our collaboration is not new, we have to enhance our activities fostering our relations.  

The Dominican Republic is a country of cultural and historical heritage with a prosperous economy based on two pillars. One of them is agriculture, which is having specific climatic conditions – 3000 MJ/m2 photosynthetic radiation, a precipitation volume ranging up to 2500 mm, and a balanced 22 oC annual mean temperature. The Dominican Republic with its 48.000 km2 territory and 10 million citizens produces a wide range of tropical crops like cocoa, tobacco, sugar cane, coconut, and various grain crops and tuber crops as well. It also possesses a highly developed food industry. The other main branch of economy is tourism. Apart from the attractive natural climatic conditions, the historical heritage, the post Columbian unique architecture and the positively handled cultural treasury forms a reliable basis for tourism. Both activities are supported by the government, with active participation, with reliable security and developed infrastructure.

Maria Luisa Ferrand, Director of Foreign Relations was the host of ours during the university programmes. We got a chance to be acquainted with the activities of the university as well as to visit some faculties, institutes and departments, the library and the up to date facilities of the laboratory building. At the end of the programme, we could conclude that INTEC can be considered as a rapidly developing university with high tech infrastructure in most parts of the premises. Majority of the teachers and research personnel were proficient in English language since – due to international exchange programmes – many of them have participated in scholarships in the US and in Europe.

Dr Arturo Del Villar, Dean of the Engineering Faculty expressed his opinion that he is personally convinced about the utility of the collaboration of SZIU and INTEC. We got acquainted with Dr Fernando Arturo Terrero, one of the delegated participants of the Dominican institution to the International Week of Szent István University 6th and 10th May 2019.

Completing the official part of the visit, we travelled to the Northern provinces of Dominica to see some of the agricultural activities. We had a one-day visit to the El Sendero del Cacao farm close to San Francisco, where we had a thorough introduction programme covering the whole of cocoa production processes from production to harvest, fermentation, drying and storage, followed by processing and chocolate production. The 160 ha farm is equipped with a small chocolate factory, which is intended to produce unique quality products, mainly for export. During the Northern trip, we got some impression on other agricultural activities as well, like rice production, tobacco production, mango, banana, coconut and oil palm plantations. We could also experience the consumption and tasting most of these products.

The cultural treasury, historical and architectural monuments of Santo Domingo provides an everlasting impact on all visitors. Santo Domingo was the first city founded by Europeans on the American continent. Its downtown, the Zona Colonial is an area protected by the UNESCO World Heritage programme. The historical castles, fortresses, churches, monasteries, and especially its cathedral are the main witnesses of our past, escorted by the abundant vegetation forming parks and avenues all around the city. Apart from the cultural topics, Dominica’s main touristic attraction is with no doubt the white sand beaches with the endless rows of coconut palm trees.

Finally a question has to be raised, namely what can be the outcome of such cooperation? We believe that the basis of any collaboration should be the mutual interest. In first place the student and teacher/staff exchange has to be mentioned. In the history of higher education there is a long tradition of learning at and experiencing from foreign universities in favour of making benefit from the novel information provided by other systems, customs and diverse methodologies. Research collaboration may be a key area especially in environmental sciences, climate change experiments and in all branches of life sciences. Last but not least, experiences in organisational methods, international relations, financial patterns and administrative structures may yield benefits for both parties.

Finally, Szent István University may get novel ammunition from the INTEC cooperation fostering the renaissance of its formerly successful – for today almost terminated education in the field of tropical and subtropical agricultural production.