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Oral-History:Vincente Ortega

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Thank you. Engineering and Civilization. Thank you very much.  
 
Thank you. Engineering and Civilization. Thank you very much.  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Engineers|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Universities|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Communications|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Telephony|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Radio_communication|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Radio_link|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Fields,_waves_&_electromagnetics|Category:Fields,_waves_&_electromagnetics]] [[Category:Microwave_technology|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Culture_and_society|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Law_&_government|Category:Law_&_government]] [[Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems|Category:Components,_circuits,_devices_&_systems]] [[Category:Integrated_circuits|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Communication_equipment|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Receivers|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:Engineering_profession|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]] [[Category:News|Oral-History:Vincente Ortega]]
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[[Category:People and organizations|Ortega]] [[Category:Engineers|Ortega]] [[Category:Universities|Ortega]] [[Category:Communications|Ortega]] [[Category:Telephony|Ortega]] [[Category:Radio communication|Ortega]] [[Category:Radio link|Ortega]] [[Category:Fields, waves & electromagnetics|Ortega]] [[Category:Microwave technology|Ortega]] [[Category:Culture and society|Ortega]] [[Category:Law & government|Ortega]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Ortega]] [[Category:Integrated circuits|Ortega]] [[Category:Communication equipment|Ortega]] [[Category:Receivers|Ortega]] [[Category:Engineering profession|Ortega]] [[Category:News|Ortega]]

Revision as of 20:03, 30 March 2012

Contents

About Vincente Ortega

Ortega was born in 1944 in La Mancha, near Toledo. He went into telecommunications engineering and got his degree from Madrid in 1967, along with a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford in 1969. He did some research on microwave electronics, particularly integrated circuits for radio receivers and radio transmitters. Ortega has been more concerned with the administrative aspects of education in his career, however. He mentions the growing demand for telecommunications engineers (particularly with the growing importance of computers); the accompanying rise in status of telecommunications engineering from the bottom of the engineering pecking order to the top between the 1960s and the present; the reorganization of engineering in the 1960s from schools attached to state ministries to being part of the regular ministry; and the increase in the number of telecommunication engineering schools from 1 to 24 in the last generation. Personally, Ortega became a professor of engineering at Madrid from the late 1960s, and was among the first to work there full-time, with a full-time salary, rather than working most of the time in industry and government. As a researcher and administrator, he tried to forward the Americanization/Europeanization of Spanish engineering, with engineering professors dedicated to original research collaborating with industry and the government. His administrative roles included Director of the School of Telecommunications (1981-1985), Vice Director of the University of Research and Post-Graduate Training (1985-87), Director of the new department of system signals and radio communication (after an administrative reorganization of the University that emphasized departments) (1989-1994), Director of the first private university in Spain, the University of Alfonzo del Sabio (resigning when a new administration decided to turn it more-or-less into a for-profit diploma mill) (1994-1995), General Director of for Universities for the Madrid regional government (1995-1999), General Secretary of the Council of Universities for all Spain (1999-recently), and is now retired, teaching classes part-time at Madrid.

About the Interview

VINCENTE ORTEGA: An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, 3 July 2002

Interview # 421 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Vincente Ortega Castro, an oral history conducted in 2002 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Vincente Ortega Castro

Interviewer: Frederik Nebeker

Date: 3 July 2002

Place: Madrid, Spain

Family and educational background

Ortega:

I was born February 25, 1944, in Villacaños, which is a village in the Province of Toledo. It is in La Mancha, very near to the land of Don Quixote. It is 40 kilometers from El Tomocho, which was the place of Dulcinea. In fact, my father was born El Tomocho.

Nebeker:

May I ask about your family? What your father did?

Ortega:

My father was in the hardware business. I have two brothers and two sisters. I studied part in my village, and part in Toledo.

Nebeker:

How far was it to Toledo?

Ortega:

In the city, the capital of the Province, in Toledo, especially the last course of what we call the matea atoba, the secondary education. I think it was in 1960 when I finished what we call the Prime Universatario, the courses for the entrance to the university. And then in Toledo I studied these courses Prime Universatario, the primary university courses, the university preparation program.

Nebeker:

Were you always interested in science and technology when you were a kid?

Ortega:

Not at all. I was not interested in anything in particular. I progressed in my studies quite well. My father said that I was a very intelligent son. When I asked what I could study in the university, they said, “Well, you have very good qualifications, very good marks in physics, in mathematics, also in history. You have to be an engineer.”

Nebeker:

You didn’t think about following in your father’s business?

Ortega:

No. My father said, “You have to leave the business. You have to go to the university.” My family was the only one to have a son at the university.

So I tried to study medicine, but I was not at all related with medicine, I did not like it. I had tried engineering. When I was 18 years old I read Nespaur in some books that were published about the curricula of engineering. I didn’t feel related at all to civil engineering, mining engineering, agricultural engineering, so I decided more for analytical or electrical or industrial, or something more based on physics. I rolled the dice and it was telecommunications—okay.

Nebeker:

So you had to decide before you went to the Polytechnical what school you were going to?

Ortega:

At that time there was no Polytechnical University. They were separate schools by their departments. The higher school of engineering was not in the education ministry. Each school belongs to the secretarial minister. For example, civil engineering was in the school of higher engineering depending on the Ministry of Public Transportation; or agricultural engineering depends on the Ministry of Agricultural; and industrial engineering depends on the Ministry of Industry; and telecommunications depends on the Ministry of the Police and the government of the interior of the organization.

Nebeker:

So the engineering schools are quite different from the humanistic university studies.

Ortega:

Very different. They were independent. They were not universities. They were a school in France, Uranicol. Uranicol is telecommunications, Paris—it belongs to France Telecom. It was 1917 when the new law of higher education integrated all the technical schools in universities, and depending on the Ministry of Education. And it was in 1971 when it was created the Polytechnical University of Madrid as an integration of all the schools that were in Madrid.

Nebeker:

This was after your years there?

Ortega:

After my graduation. I graduated in 1967. I finished my career in 1967. And in 1967 still there were no polytechnical universities; it was separate schools.

Telecommunications studies

Nebeker:

So you came to Madrid to the school of telecommunications. How did you like the studies here?

Ortega:

I liked the studies, probably the same as I have studies of other careers. In this time telecommunications was the lowest in the ranking of engineering. It was part of civil engineering, what we call caminos canales y cuertos—it was the top of the prestige of engineering, industrial engineering. When you are asked, “What are you studying?” “Telecommunications.” “What is that?” “Telephonica.” Telecommunications just with telephones. So in the ranking of prestige, the tele was almost an unknown.

Nebeker:

Because it was just telephone and telegraph, but also radio and television.

Ortega:

Yes, but in fact we were very few students. Now telecommunications is at the top of the prestige in Spain due to the evolution of technology, the evolution of market, and also evolution of the study. When I came to Madrid, was only one school in Spain for Telecommunications. It was the only one in Madrid

Nebeker:

So how did the, was there a PTT in Spain that handled all this?

Ortega:

Yes, Telephonica.

Nebeker:

And how did they get enough engineers for all of their work?

Ortega:

They need very few, only about sixty per year.

Nebeker:

And how were the studies themselves? Did you feel you got a good education?

Ortega:

Well, it depends. Half of the professors were good professors and half were not. Because there was no research at all. Most of the professors were people that worked in the industry or in the administration, and they came here only two hours a day to lead the class, and then the examinations. Most of the professors at that time were all telegraphers, so we studied a lot of mechanics, a lot of thermodynamics. It was the telecommunications based on electromechanical apparatus, electromechanical theories, etc. There were no transistors from Spain, no solid-state electronics, no digital. It was theory, it was analogy only, and the technology wasn’t for mechanical.

Nebeker:

Did you have field theory Maxwell equations?

Ortega:

Yes, we have a lot of Maxwell equations—too much!

Nebeker:

So you did have a good physics training.

Ortega:

Yes, a good physics. A lot of mechanics, mathematics, thermodynamics, materials, electromagnetic fields, electronics also, vacuum tube electronics.

Nebeker:

But with the professors being in industry or working for the Telephonica, that meant your education was also practical oriented.

Ortega:

Not very much. Very theoretical. There was only one, two, three laboratories in the school. In fact, we had to join together, say five or six friends, and buy our own laboratory to do practice—by our initiative by following books, etc.

So it was the last stages of our generation. It was the generation of the older telegraphers. Some of them very good, especially in mathematics or electromagnetic fields—more theoretical topics.

Nebeker:

Well, I would think that it is important to have a theoretical background with the very rapid development that took place. If somebody had only been trained only in practical electrical engineering of the ‘50s and ‘60s then it would be difficult to deal with the new technology.

Ortega:

Yes, it is necessary. The problem in the education program is the balance between more theoretical aspect and more practical aspect. Especially engineering.

Nebeker:

So four years of schooling for the engineering degree?

Ortega:

Seven years. The curricula of engineering was seven years. It was common for all engineering and science students. In fact, I studied these courses here in the Faculty of Science officially, which was the common course. It was of course selective courses. You had to pass all the antecourse just to follow. So it was a very hard course. Then in the Engineering School there was another courses, Iniciation, Initiation or Introduction to Engineering. It was also a selective course—you have to pass all the matters or credits of these courses, and then you will start your career, which was five years. So total seven years.

Nebeker:

So these two are too filter out the people who are not appropriate.

Ortega:

Yes, that’s right.

Nebeker:

And many people did not succeed in the first two years?

Ortega:

Normally you spend at least two or more years in this course in order to pass the exams, and then these courses were very easy. [laughter]

Nebeker:

You have to prove yourself! [laughter] So all of this was telecommunications, these five years?

Ortega:

All this was in the School of Telecommunications. It was in the university, because we were not university. The first course was in the university, the Faculty of Science, with the competence of Madrid, and then it was in the School of Telecommunications.

Nebeker:

I see. It looks very thorough with seven years of education in engineering. What is the degree called when you complete?

Ortega:

The degree is called Engineero de Telecommunication, telecommunication engineer, in Spain we have two types of engineers. In parallel with this school is a higher school, Escuela Technica Superior. There was another curricula that was four years, at that time, that is Engineero Technique of Telecommunication, a kind of sort of duration studies for the Engineero Technico de Telecommunication.

Nebeker:

So maybe this would be a Bachelor’s of Engineering and a Masters of Engineering?

Ortega:

In some way. This is what we are doing now with the Bologna Declaration. Well, this was until 1970. Then engineering was in the university. Politechnica was founded in Madrid and in Apalonia, etc., and the curricula is five years, and the curricula of Engineero Technico is three years. From 1970 until now, these are the two types of engineers. Enginero, which some people call higher education, this is Enginero Technico. This is in some ways equivalent to a Bachelor, and this is in some way equivalent to a Master. And there is a possibility of moving up to this curricula, moving to the second cycle of this tier. This is the first tier, this is the second tier, and you can translate pass from this situation sometimes some compliments, depending on the curricula, to pass to this second cycle. It was intended for more specialist engineer. Just for the professional.

Nebeker:

But practicing engineer.

Ortega:

Practicing engineering in a field of, let’s say, telephone changes or electronics design, etc., very narrow the curricula, and it was intended for a more generalist engineer, more scientifically based.

Nebeker:

So research engineers would go through this curriculum?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

Was there higher studies if one wanted to teach at the university? Was there something like a doctoral degree?

Ortega:

Yes. This is technical engineer, then there is a doctoral study. Maybe a master degree—there is a special degree in Spain. Master is something open to everybody, but university can give master more specialized in the topics. The way to the doctorate is normally is four to five years.

Nebeker:

This is a longer educational program. In the United States it is four years of undergraduate education, and often good part of that, a quarter or more, is general studies; it is not engineering.

Ortega:

Yes, mainly it is the people that follow for the doctorate degree are people that are very dedicated to the academic field, because to be a good professor in the university it is necessary to be a doctorate. Because the industry in Spain does not appreciate the doctorate degree. The research in Spain is still low. Most of the people, say ninety percent of the people, that study for doctorate degree are because they have some vocation for teaching research in the university or in research or in public research centers. A minimum of three years for very good people, and maximum five years to do the doctoral work and dissertation.

Nebeker:

So you came to Madrid and had seven years of study, is that right?

Ortega:

That is right.

Nebeker:

And that went well?

Ortega:

Yes, seven years.

Nebeker:

You went straight through?

Ortega:

Yes. There were no problems. I did quite well. The last portion of that you can dedicate to work.

Industrial employment

Nebeker:

Did you do any part time work in the summers?

Ortega:

Yes, during the last portion I worked with an industry contact in ITT, what now is Acatell. ITT is Standard Electrical, it belongs to the Internet Telephone and Telegraph. It was during the last course I worked for ITT.

Nebeker:

What did you do for them?

Ortega:

I tuned wave lengths. My first job was in Barcelona, to tune the wave length between Barcelona, Cartejon, Valencia, Quenta, Madelina, all those.

Nebeker:

So they had radio links for the telephone system.

Ortega:

Microwave radio links.

Assistant professorship at Madrid; fellowship year at Stanford

Ortega:

Then I came back to the school as an Assistant Professor.

Nebeker:

So you immediately started teaching at the school?

Ortega:

Yes. This is the contract as assistant professor. Then after two years of Assistant Professor I went to Stanford. I got a fellowship from here in Spain from the Minister of Education and I spent one year at Stanford doing Master of Electrical Engineering in 1969. A very interesting year at Stanford

Nebeker:

There was the student unrest at that time.

Ortega:

Student unrest, yes. Very historical. At Stanford they were in Cambodia. So it was a very interesting year—not for the microwave or electrical engineering, but for other things.

Nebeker:

So you were getting a masters in Communications?

Ortega:

Electrical Engineering. I studied mainly microwaves courses.

Nebeker:

Frederick Terman was probably still there, or he was retired?

Ortega:

No, he was retired. Frederick Terman had just retired that year. Gibbons was the Dean of the school. At Stanford at that time the main electrical engineering was electronics, solid state. There were other people doing solid-state research. Shockley was at that time at Stanford, teaching a course.

Nebeker:

Did you like the Stanford experience?

Ortega:

Yes, a lot. Maybe more to know the type of another university organization, another way to conceive the teaching and research. More for the model of the university and the way to do things very, very different from the way we do in Spain. Because the microwaves are the same in Stanford as in Spain. You can read and study in the book the same. But the method of work is very different. The way to do things is different, the way we have to study, to do things, to solve problems is quite different than we are use to doing in Spain. We have a lot of hours in class and no time to create—just to go class, listen to the professor, take notes, and do the examination. Normally in these courses it was twenty-five to thirty hours per week of classes.

Nebeker:

Is that right? Of classes?

Ortega:

In Stanford there was twelve to fifteen classes. Then you have to do problems at home, do homework, sometimes you had laboratory. So this is another way of doing things. This has been for me much more interesting than strictly the courses I took.

Nebeker:

You completed a Master’s in 1 year?

Ortega:

One year. After seven years and after two years as Assistant Professor I have no difficulties getting a Masters. I even had to take some intermediate course between my Master’s and Doctoral degrees. In some way some of the courses were normally Master’s. We know these courses.

Nebeker:

Yes, you had already studied them. So did the student unrest cause any problems in your education in that year, ’69-’70? Some campuses were disrupted.

Ortega:

No, no problem for me or my family. There were no problems.

Nebeker:

Oh, you had a family with you?

Ortega:

Yes, I married just before going to the United States, and I went with my wife. This was also good since then at the university I can still have Spanish food [laughter]. I was very interested in it. You know, the problems were at Stanford because Stanford had this image that never before, they say, has Stanford has been [unintelligible word] to demonstration. It was also the problem with the Stanford Research Institute, people from the social settings just invading the Stanford research labs to see what the demonstrator professor from business, electronics, and engineering were making much more money than professors from humanities, etc. So to see classified research of the laboratories of the university was an interesting experience.

Nebeker:

Was there any professor there that you got to know well?

Ortega:

Professor Bracewell was in senior theory. Kailath also in senior theory

Nebeker:

Oh Kailath, I know of him. Braswell I don’t know.

Ortega:

He was from Australia. He was in the same area as Kailath.

Ortega:

In fact one of the courses on senior theory was one quarter was given by Vertique but was taught by Bracewell and the other quarter was taught by Kailath. Degree of Transform and Applications was the name of that course. Then Minder was solid state. At that time he was the Dean of the School of Engineering. Then Professor C.F. Quate in microwaves, and Gordon S. Kino were the people that follow the works of Chodorow. When I was here in ’68 and ’69 Chodorow was a good scientist in the microwave field who was retiring. Kino was the people that followed the works platform Chodorow in the field of microwave electronics.

Professorship at School of Telecommunications, Polytechnic University

Nebeker:

So you returned to Spain after one year at Stanford.

Ortega:

Yes

Nebeker:

Was that about the time the Polytechnic was being formed?

Ortega:

Yes, it was in ’71; I returned in September 1970. I remember June of ’71 was the first semester the Polytechnic University opened.

Nebeker:

So you returned to the Escuela of Telecommunications.

Ortega:

Yes. I had to do some [unintelligible] to be professor or public server.

Nebeker:

There is some sort of a competition?

Ortega:

A competition to be a full professor, the first category of full professor as a public server.

Nebeker:

Public examination?

Ortega:

Public examination, we have to teach our curricula, what are we going to do, teaching projects, our research projects. Then you explain one of the lessons to five people—you have to explain the lesson, solve a practical problem, etc. I was very happy, because in those years during the ‘70s until ‘80s was when the change of the generation of professor in this school took place. The old telegraphy, most of them were retired, and we entered a new kind of professor. Most of us have spent some time in foreign countries, mainly in the United States. There were three of us at Stanford. Professor Luque was in France, Professor Salvackas was in the United Kingdom. During this decade it was very important for the history of this school because it was change between an old generation that was the foundation of the school and the new generation of professor. We are now next to retire [laughter].

Shifts in educational institutions and research, 1970s-1980s

Nebeker:

I am interested that you say the old generation was the telegraphists, yet they had very strong backgrounds in math and physics. In the United States and I think England as well, telegraphy was more a practical engineering field and they were not so well trained in math and physics, and it was the new radio engineers who were more…

Ortega:

Yes, maybe in Spain these people are these people, “technical engineers”. These engineers were prepared following the French model, more people going to administration, etc., so they were prepared with a very theoretical background, and the more practical were the other type of engineers. We called it technical engineer or even “perito”, or “expert” of telecommunications, either expert of telecommunication equipment or telecommunication network, but very specialized. Following the model of the French School of Engineering, engineering was more directed to administration, the managing of industries. They were not supposed to know practical questions, but rather would study economy, industry, business, etc.

Nebeker:

So this change of generations in the ‘70s of the older generation of engineers and the newer generation, one difference was the new professors did research as a regular thing.

Ortega:

Yes. In fact, before the ‘70s it was very difficult to do research in the university because there were no national agencies for research, there was no money to promote research in universities, so especially in experimental science or engineering it was impossible to do research without… So, but in 1963 an equivalent of the National Science Foundation was created.

Nebeker:

So professors could get grants to do research.

Ortega:

Research was included in the general politics of the state in the budget, and so there was money, and there was for the first time some qualification of the research claim. It was also very important for the engineering school the possibility of fully dedication the university. The salary was not very good, but at least you can live. Because before ’68 there were no capped salaries on the school of engineering to be full professor, dedicated completely to the work. It was only part-time professors.

Nebeker:

So people almost always had some other job?

Ortega:

Some other job. All theoretical professors worked, because there was no possibility. In fact Professor Luque, another professor, and I were the first ones in the school to have our contract as fully dedicated to the school to teach and do research. Before it was only teach.

Nebeker:

So that is quite a change in the educational establishment here.

Ortega:

It was the political people that wanted to dedicate to university and to politics of the country that considered research as an important thing and try to plan for education and put money and to pay professors for doing teaching and research.

Nebeker:

How do you explain the timing of this? Why did it happen around 1970 in Spain?

Ortega:

At that time in the government entered some people, so-called technocrats, when Spain probably as a consequence from 1959-‘70 they were in agreement with the United States because Eisenhower and Francoff signed the first agreement of cooperation. Then some people, especially from the Opus Dei entered the government. They were more illustrative [correct word?] people, economists as well as other type minded people. They were not scientists. So they were the first plan of liberalization of the economy. They were the first plan of development of Spain was [unintelligible word] and former minister when Spain started to open to the modern world.

Nebeker:

So it was a fairly closed academic world before then? There wasn’t a lot of exchange with other countries?

Ortega:

Very few.

Nebeker:

Was it looking more to France or Germany or England or to the United States? Was there a model for a university education?

Ortega:

It depends. For engineering the model was France, it was a Napoleonic model. I would say maybe in humanities and social studies, more of a continental model. For philosophy more of German. Experimental science, more of France, social. More of the continental way.

Nebeker:

I am just wondering why this should happen in the ‘70s. Was it sort of an economic development of Spain?

Ortega:

Yes, it was the start of economic development of Spain. One part was an agreement with the United States which was a lot of money, a lot of influence. The ’70s finished the maturation of Spain. Spain entered the United Nations, etc. Then also many people came to Spain as tourists.

Nebeker:

Large tourism was very new?

Ortega:

It was very new and very important for the economy, and also for the relationships with other people and for the modernization of the country. I think it was because of the new generation of people, more illustrative people, especially from Opus Dei.

Nebeker:

What is this Opus Dei?

Ortega:

Opus Dei is an association that was founded eight years ago by a priest. They are very clever people, they tried to study, but they are kind of-- Now for example they are very important because Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer is the founder of the Opus Dei. It is kind of an association of people that are not priests, are civil, but they are oriented as Jesuits, but civil.

Nebeker:

They're not priests themselves, not Jesuits, but they are influenced…

Ortega:

Influenced in some way, some kind of an association, but they are always fighting with the Jesuits. So the difference between these people, for example, the Opus Dei speak English, they speak foreign language, French or so. They were not militarists or [unintelligible word]. They were not the people who won the war. They have visited foreign countries, some of them have studied in foreign countries. They were specialists mainly on economy.

Nebeker:

So their idea was the modernization of Spain?

Ortega:

Yes. Also, because one of the agreements with the United States was you had to open to the world, you have to modernize your institutions, your banks, your administration, etc., and they start with some material for modernization.

Nebeker:

Did this opening up of Spain or the greater relations with other countries influence telecommunications very much? Were there changes there?

Ortega:

Well, the influence, for example, in the field of research, of course—there was a lot of money. Also in telecommunications. In the history of all of engineering, telecommunications was one of the last schools to be founded in Spain. It was founded in 1923 whereas mining engineering existed from the 18th century. So maybe because we a young profession, a young school, and maybe telecommunications and electronics technology, etc., modern technologies. This has propitiated a more rapid change in telecommunications than in other professions, like mining or in civil engineering, etc. There was a lot of development in the field of telecommunication, but more like as a monopoly until recently, ten years ago, that that started.

Nebeker:

A state monopoly. And I imagine Spain was always part of the International Telecommunications Union and, of course, always had agreements about telephone and broadcasting.

Microwave electronics research

Nebeker:

So you returned in 1970, you said, to the school.

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

What was your own research area?

Ortega:

Microwaves. I have specialized in some ways in microwaves, microwave radios, microwave satellite radio. So I tried to start a laboratory especially on microwave electronics: flat circuits, straight-line, micro straight-line, transistors for equipment, for radio and for radar, for more equipment, satellites, et cetera.

Relationship between industry and academia in Spain

Nebeker:

I know you worked earlier for ITT with those microwave links. Did you have any connections with either the PTT or with industry?

Ortega:

Well, the relationship between industry and universities in Spain has been until recently very, very cold. In fact, there was no relationship. There were no consulting contracts or research contracts. But in 1973 the Foundation University-Industry in Madrid was founded, and I was one of the collaborators on forming this Foundation in 1973. I started to do work just to try to promote the relationship between industry and the university. Now it is well established mainly in engineering or business schools or other schools. But it was also in the decade of the 1970s when we started just to try to promote this type of relationship. In fact, I had one of the first contracts with industry in this school with ITT was with Standard Electrica to do some microwave work for satellites. Then there are a lot of contracts with industry at this school.

Nebeker:

And was the demand for telecommunications engineers increasing very much?

Ortega:

Yes. In fact, during the 1980s there was a gap between the demand in industry and the supply at the university. I did work that was contracted from ENDESCO. ENDESCO was a foundation from Telefonica for the social development of telecommunications. I worked with other professors at this school to try to disseminate how to close the gap, because there were real problems. The demand from industry from 1982 to 1987 or so was very high, and there were not enough schools of engineering. In fact until 1970, there was only one school in Madrid. Then in 1971 or 1972, another school was founded in Barcelona. Then another school in Valencia in Vigo. Now there are twenty-four schools of telecommunications in Spain.

Nebeker:

That’s amazing in only thirty years.

Ortega:

We had to implement courses and invite or recycle teachers from physics, professors from industrial electronics, industrial engineering, from the specialty of electronics, some teachers from mathematics just to teach courses and to cope with the demand. One of the results of these courses was the commission for founding a new school of telecommunications. Before with IDP a thousand engineers in information and communication technologies are needed in Europe in comparison with United States. Three years ago we did another study on the demand of engineers in informatics and telecommunication, computer science, etc., and there were no engineers in the telecommunication world. The prospective has completely failed.

Government and private companies in telecommunications

Nebeker:

Now in the 1970s, certainly, I assume that the PTT had the monopoly on telephone and telegraph, and there was probably a state monopoly on television and radio broadcasting, or not?

Ortega:

Not exactly. In Spain the model is quite different in some aspects from the rest of Europe. Telephony was private with a contract with the state—regulated by the state but it was a private company. But telegraph was a department of the government administration. Radio broadcasts and television was another department of the government administration.

Nebeker:

So that was a state monopoly?

Ortega:

Yes. It was a state monopoly. But the political rigor type of society was in some ways different. But with Telefonica the first thirty percent of the stock options were for the state and the rest were private for the people. In fact, it was the state that managed the politics of Telefonica. But it was the difference between the public administration and private administration.

Nebeker:

Now these, I assume, were the main employers of telecommunications engineers.

Ortega:

Yes. During these years and then it was IDP. It was a very large industry. During this time also Teletra from Italy come to Spain. Until say about 1964 ITT had a monopoly on the all equipment used by Telefonica which was provided by ITT. This situation was very bad—a monopoly on service and a monopoly on the fabrication. Then it was Teletra from Italy and Erikson from Sweden that provided the equipment for Telefonica or television, so some kind of competence in fabrication was introduced.

Nebeker:

These companies, certainly ITT, were hiring Spanish engineers.

Ortega:

Yes.

Shifts in telecommunications employment practices

Nebeker:

Of course in recent years, there are many businesses that hire telecommunications engineers. I’m just wondering about this demand, where this demand is coming from. State broadcasting was probably increasing in these years.

Ortega:

During the 1980s or even 1990s, there were two public television channels. Now there are maybe five from the national territory and there are maybe ten or thirteen television stations from each region or private regions. So this has expanded also to the private field. But mainly I think the grand expansion is because of the computers, the networks associated with computers. It is what some people call Telematic.

Nebeker:

So these telecommunications engineers are finding employment in computer communications.

Ortega:

Yes. Now the number of people working in fabrication companies are low as compared to the people working in different industries, or even in administration doing network design and network maintenance. For example, the banks never employed telecommunications engineers. Now they are one of the main businesses that employ telecommunications engineers for their own computer telecommunications network. Even very, very small industries need to have an infrastructure in communications, and they now employ at least one engineer in telecommunications just to do all the organization. You have a local network with fifty computers in the company, and then you have to contract with some operator for less money or to introduce someone. So it has been this type of expansion in many small and medium-sized industries. So telecommunications twenty years ago was specialized for the operators of telecommunications; now almost all activities have telecommunication engineers.

Nebeker:

When was this first period of shortage of telecommunication engineers?

Ortega:

The first one from 1983 to 1989.

Nebeker:

So in the mid-1980s there was a real shortage in telecommunications engineers, and then you said more recently, there was another. And I assume partly as a result of that, the prestige of telecommunications is rising in the academic community.

Ortega:

Yes. In fact, this school has the highest qualifications for entering in all of Spain. To enter university now, all the students have to pass a national examination. There is a ranking where they are classified according to a numerical score. Then depending on how many openings there are in the school, it might be thirty-one students but there are 1,000 students who want to come to this school. So only the highest are accepted, only the students with the best minds have the qualifications to enter this school. The score must be 8.2. This is the highest, except in some practices of medicine.

Nebeker:

Does that mean also that salaries are higher for telecommunications engineers in Spain?

Ortega:

Yes. At least until the last year. There are many engineers that are not working and are unemployed. One of the consequences is shown in this paper, showing how the salaries increased because of the great competency.

Effects of Spanish entry in the Common Market (1986) on telecommunications research, employment, and education

Nebeker:

When did Spain enter the Common Market?

Ortega:

1986.

Nebeker:

Did this have an impact on telecommunications engineers?

Ortega:

Yes. Telecommunications engineers and also on academic because of money from research contracts.

Nebeker:

So there was more research money.

Ortega:

The Framework program of the European Union, also how the politics of the government of Spain looks. Most of the programs were started in information and in communication technologies. There has been a lot of money for research in information and telecommunications technologies in the Framework program and also in the Spanish program.

Nebeker:

Has it also led to a greater similarity between different countries in the Common Market in the education of telecommunications engineers?

Ortega:

That is a problem, because telecommunications as an official title I think it only exists as an academic title. Most of the country did like France and it is called telecommunications. In the United Kingdom, there are no telecommunications engineers. In the academic sense, but in the profession they are electrical engineers and their degree is in electrical engineering. The same in the United States, Holland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany. So telecommunications is an academic title. As an official degree it exists, I think, only in Switzerland. One is the official degree or the title, and another is most of the electrical engineers in telecommunications or computer science as an equivalent to telecommunications.

In Europe there is a problem. In fact, we are now engaged trying to construct what we call the European States of Higher Education. Three years ago in Bologna was the Declaration of the Twenty-third Minister of Education of European Countries just to say the European system of higher education at universities [unintelligible], national [unintelligible] in this organization era with the United States and Canada and with [unintelligible]. This is a very confusing situation with the same kind of degrees and the difference in measuring the teaching, the validation, the formalization. It is difficult for someone coming from Southeast Africa or Argentina. In Europe it is easier to understand the system of the United States. Even the mobility of people from France to Italy and the United Kingdom is difficult because you have to evaluate this degree to its equivalence in the different countries. So it is a difficult situation.

In Europe the Minister of Education is trying to convert them for 2010 to change the national system to go in the direction of the Declaration of Bologna to establish a degree system and base it on the bachelor’s degree as the first graduation, and a title which has relevance for the market, and then master’s and doctorate. Yesterday there was a conference about this problem in Bologna, because it is going to be very difficult because countries are very proud of their education, and especially France does not want to change the professional application. One of the proposals is going to be difficult to assess because there is no engineer of technical—there is a two-year engineer and five-year engineer. We are going to do a four-year engineer with a system of credits equivalent to the Bachelor of Engineering. Not two, just one. And then master’s or doctorate.

Nebeker:

Well, with the Common Market, I understand people can work in any Common Market country and there is freedom of employment. So there is some need for common standards of education and common standards of degrees.

Ortega:

The problem is that education is not compulsory in the European Unions. It is not like other topics like economics or professionals, etc. It is only for commendations.

Nebeker:

Do you think the Declaration of Bologna is going to succeed? That there will be comparable…?

Ortega:

I think it will depend. I think it will be positive. Maybe not one hundred percent, but probably fifty percent to sixty percent. One good thing is that now in each country the academic people are now having conferences and seminars. Everybody is saying, “We have to do something.” That’s good. We have to change. We have to see what other people are doing. So this is good. The problem is difficult to solve because of the professional interest, and the university interest of the very different universities and official organizations, [unintelligible word], etc. It is going to be difficult, but I think at least fifty percent of Bologna is going to be done.

Nebeker:

What about the content of the education? For electronics engineers in Germany who are interested in communications, is there any difference between what they learn and what comparable engineers in Spain learn? Is the substance, the subject matter itself is international?

Ortega:

My experience is that in the United States, the content is the same in all countries. What is different is the method of education. For example, your method tends to help more creative people. Spain or Germany is very intensive in teaching—the student is a receptor of information only and gives it back during examinations. They have no time for problem solving. So the content is more or less the same in all the countries. Just the method and also the laboratory and the libraries, et cetera.

Microwave electronics and radio receiver circuits research

Nebeker:

So if we could return to your research. So you returned from Stanford in 1970 and started teaching, though you had been teaching before. Did you get a laboratory for yourself?

Ortega:

Yes. We have a laboratory for microwaves, antennas, radio frequency. We had a laboratory for teaching and a laboratory for research. We got money from the Spanish government, and we spent the money from ITT or from other industries for the research contracts. Then we started to establish laboratories.

Nebeker:

Could you tell more specifics about your research over the years? What particular issues have you been concerned with?

Ortega:

It was in the field of microwave electronics. We made an integrated circuits for radio equipment.

Nebeker:

So designing the radio receiver circuits?

Ortega:

That’s right. The radio receiver and the radio transmitter. Mainly the front ends. We were the front ends of the transmitter of the receiver. The front end is where the microwaves are. Then after the front ends, it is intermediate frequency and what we call low frequency from the microwave. So mainly front ends for radios, for satellites, for radio links, etc. For application of radio and radar.

Nebeker:

This was the era where you could design a circuit and then get an application-specific integrated circuit built to do that?

Ortega:

Yes. To deliver a level of prototype, we have the facilities to do it ourselves. With other facilities from the laboratory of electronics, essentially conductors, we can make microwave point tip switch, we can solder in a transistor, we can measure the amplifiers, the oscillators, the mixers, etc., to the level of a prototype.

Nebeker:

So you build a prototype from the printed circuit, discrete elements, and so on. Then do you have that fabricated somewhere else?

Ortega:

Well that depends on the industry. If we have a research contract with an industry and they want to fabricate it, that is not our problem.

Nebeker:

You design the circuits.

Ortega:

In some cases, within the industry it was called telecommunications and control, that we developed with them a prototype for the microwave link, but they fabricated it. Or ITT when we did some research for the Spanish satellite, following the model we developed here at the level of a prototype.

Nebeker:

Was your work typically this application-specific that you were thinking of a radar receiver or a satellite link? Or did you do more general research in microwaves?

Ortega:

We tried to do both things. But forget the money from industry, we tried to get money from one partner in Europe or from Spain, from the National Europe Agency or a Spanish agency. In that case, we could do more basic research. From industry, we want to be able to apply it. We tried to do some part of the basic research as long as it was related to the application, not just theoretical equations, but to do some basic research that is close to the possible application.

Doctoral student researchers and research groups

Ortega:

For example, we have to educate doctors, so doctors have to do doctoral thesis, and the doctorial thesis has to have at least theoretical material and not only applied background. And there the student can get a doctorate without doing research. So for example, you are doing an amplifier. You can’t just take an amplifier from the market. They have to go to the state of the art and try to find a new method, a new kind of system, a new kind of connection, a new kind of line, a new program for design—something applied from this new method or theory or new program for the design of amplifiers. Then as in experimental research, we prove the results, that the thing works.

Nebeker:

Tell me about the doctoral program here. Have you had many doctoral students?

Ortega:

It depends. No. Normally in Spain, the difference from the United States especially at universities, the percentage is about two to five percent of the total students. Very low in the doctoral programs. There are several reasons. One is that associations don’t need doctorates except in academics. There is no difference for Telefonica for that.

Nebeker:

They are not interested in a doctorate?

Ortega:

They are not interested. They prefer just a recent Bachelors in Engineering. They pay the same to a Doctorate in Engineering.

Nebeker:

I think in the United States it’s only the very large companies with a large research program that are interested in doctorates. Most everybody is interested in just a Bachelors or a Master’s degree.

Ortega:

Another reason, especially now since the market is demanding a lot of engineers, nobody wants to be a doctoral student.

Nebeker:

It’s a bad career move.

Ortega:

Almost half of our students are foreign students. The United States too. Maybe seventy percent of doctoral candidates in the United States are from foreign countries.

Nebeker:

Yes, I know. So half of your doctoral students are from foreign countries?

Ortega:

Yes. Mainly from South America, Columbia, Cuba.

Nebeker:

Do you have a degree that is called a Master’s Degree?

Ortega:

No, it’s not a degree. Well, it is a degree in the sense that many institutions, universities and industries are private organizations that give Master’s degrees. For example, in business administration with the MBA, they were the pioneers in introducing the concept of a Master’s Degree in Spain at private institutions. The market and society knows what a Master’s Degree is, but it is not an official degree. In fact, at the university there is no obligation to offer courses in the Master’s program. In fact, Master’s programs are fake apart from the business school. The cost of the Master’s program is ten times the official cost of the regular courses, and professors receive an extra salary to teach these courses.

Nebeker:

I was wondering about other research. Do the people in the seven-year program, the superior engineers, do they do research as part of their program?

Ortega:

Not at all.

Nebeker:

So the only students you have who would be working on research are the doctoral students, is that right?

Ortega:

In the seven-program no research. Research doesn’t exist in Spain. But now, yes. during the last five years program. In the five-year program during the courses we have what we call the final project where there is normally five students and a professor doing some tutoring on this project. This is, in some way, a kind of initiation to research. The best of these students we normally try to get for the doctoral degrees or to work in industry. So this final project is not a normal process. They work in the laboratory and are under the tutelage of their professor. And this is an introduction, an initiation to research.

Nebeker:

But that would be mainly as an educational activity rather than actually helping you in solving something.

Ortega:

They help. It is on an educational basis, because to obtain the title, the degree, you have to defend, to demonstrate.

Nebeker:

They do some original research that is useful?

Ortega:

Not exactly original, because for this project original work is not needed. But it is a way to contribute. It is a start because they are working with people who are doing their own doctoral studies in the laboratories, in the office, et cetera.

Nebeker:

I am really wondering about the research activity here. In the United States, very often professors get most research done because of doctoral students. It is the doctoral students working with them who have all the time.

Ortega:

More or less here it is the same situation. If you are a professor, most of the time, it is just to look for money, to get administration of the money, teaching classes, and the organization of your group of research, and the relationship with the rector, with the vice rector, and with the director of the school. The people that are really doing research are the people that are doing doctorates.

Nebeker:

What has your research group consisted of over the years? You came in 1970 and you had no doctoral students, I assume.

Ortega:

No doctorates, no.

Nebeker:

Did you gradually acquire some doctoral students?

Ortega:

Yes. We got several professors to be in the doctoral programs, and after 1975 we had a full professor in theory, one in microwaves and one in antennas. Then we have three full professors with intermediate theory.

Nebeker:

Oh, three professors under the…?

Ortega:

We had two engineers with a full professor [speaks in Spanish.] Both professors fully dedicated to theories. Then in 1975 there were two cateraticos, one more microwave with myself, and another one in the field of radiation. But we worked together in a group that we called Microwaves and Radiation. These people came from MIT as the former Director of the School.

Nebeker:

Then under you there were three of the professor titular?

Ortega:

Professor titular, and then each of them has two assistant fellowships, pre-doctoral studies, so the whole group was twenty. Then we had to divide one group in radiation and one group is microwave. Then even the group in microwaves has been further divided. There is a group in radar and a group in microwave radio communication. There are seven people in radar caparetico. Then in microwave maybe another ten people. It has been growing.

Nebeker:

So in the 1970s, this structure was established with three of these professors, titulars. Did this happen in the 1970s?

Ortega:

In the 1970s, yes.

Nebeker:

So each of them had a couple of doctoral students?

Ortega:

Yes. That was more or less the situation. Each doctor was titular and has normally two, sometime three, doctoral students. Two doctoral students and maybe five in the project area.

Nebeker:

Were you then not involved directly with the doctoral students?

Ortega:

At the beginning, then it was impossible. The main function of the director of the group is just to construct the group, to get the money, to do the contracts, to do the administration things. It also depends, because in 1981 I was nominated as the director of this school. So my research life and teaching life was decreased a lot.

Directing the School of Telecommunication; manuals, texts, and curricula

Nebeker:

So in 1981 you became Director of the School of Telecommunications, it was called?

Ortega:

Yes. From 1981 to 1985.

Nebeker:

How was that period for you?

Ortega:

Very interesting. It was also a period of increasing the number of the programs at this school. When I was director, there was only this building, called Building A and we were constructing Building B, and then Building C, which was built to meet the demands of the students, the professors, et cetera.

Nebeker:

How was it for you moving to this administrative directorship?

Ortega:

It was very, very interesting. It was another type of work. But research is impossible to do.

Nebeker:

How was this job of Director of the school for you?

Ortega:

It was very interesting, and I was very happy to do this work. There was a lot, for example, of organization, mainly on teaching, to say what is the organization of the curricula, the plan of study of the students. We made a lot of changes in the study.

Nebeker:

What were the general trends or objectives of these changes?

Ortega:

Part was to reduce the hours of class. We passed from thirty to twenty-five. Then modernize to thermodynamics or the mechanical engineering, etc.

Nebeker:

That wasn’t really used in telecommunications.

Ortega:

It was used in telecommunications. It was more electronics, theory, more computer science, because this is one of the objects of this school. We have an integration of the three areas. The three courses, it is thirty percent electronics, thirty percent [unintelligible word] telecommunications, and thirty percent computer science. So for the engineer it is more information technology more than telecommunication. This has been common. Then during the following two courses the student can select some kind of intensification or specialization on electronics or in telecommunications or in telematics [correct word?]. Then we changed the formal approach where our curricula was many hours of class. These types of things was what we did.

Nebeker:

How was it with a new curriculum like this? I assume there were situations where there wasn’t an appropriate text book. Is that something that the professors produced manuals for the classes?

Ortega:

Professors produced manuals for the classes, copies like this example I have here. I started to do this type of manual a long time ago when I introduced these types of courses in the curricula of this school. It was called the Foundation and Function of the Engineering. That is a very simple course. And one of the parts was an evolution of engineering as a whole, but very panoramic. It was in 1989. We produce literature.

Nebeker:

Were you looking to courses in French, technical schools or German technical schools, or was there any model for this change of curriculum?

Ortega:

The model has been the United States, because most of the professors, at least five or six professors, were from Stanford, another from Caltech, another from Harvard, another from MIT. So many, many people were from the United States.

Nebeker:

So they saw some courses there that they thought would be good.

Ortega:

Yes. Most of our original books are from professors from the United States.

Nebeker:

Did you actually use the US text books here?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

So the students are expected to read English?

Ortega:

Yes, most of them. Then we [unintelligible] for some kind of manual for following more easily the new model development of the course, or for courses that there was not textbooks to follow the course there was a manual, and we would recommend different readings. The student probably doesn’t have time to go to the library and consult different books because they have a lot of time in class. They just read the manual.

Nebeker:

I am interested in the question of textbooks because I am writing an article right now about classic textbooks, and a Swiss engineer told me that at least when he was being educated, text books were not an important part of the education; it was the lecture notes. In the United States typically what the professor was teaching you was what is in the text book, and the text book sort of defined the course. How has it been in Spain? Is it more the lecture themselves that define the course?

Ortega:

Yes, the lecture and the manual.

Nebeker:

Is the manual something that is typically produced for a course?

Ortega:

Yes. It is reproduced in some form in the publication department of the school. The professor sends lecture notes and they publish it.

Nebeker:

So each professor would have his own manual?

Ortega:

Most of them, yes, for several reasons. One is that it is very difficult for the student to consult several books because of time. The language is not the problem; the problem is time. Money is not the problem because the in the library are all the books you want to consult. It is easier to study the lecture notes of the professor than just to try to go the books. The difference between the method I described before, you have your lecture notes and you have say three hours per week. My experience when I came to Stanford is I got to know many of the professors whose books I had read. I said, “Terman does exist?” Or Bracewell or Shockley or Chodorow. Some of the professors whose books I had studied were there, and that helped also to study their books.

In Spain they have manuals. It is very difficult for a professor to publish a book, because to publish a book you have to have to be more original, and the manuals were easy.

Nebeker:

It was of course especially MIT professors and Stanford professor whose text books were widely used in the United States, and one that I am including in this article I am writing is Carl Spangenberg’s Electron Tubes and Semiconductor Devices. He was at Stanford, but I think he died in the mid ‘60s so he must have died before you arrived. So these manuals would not be used by other professors elsewhere, is that right?

Ortega:

No, not normally. Maybe some of these are used in other schools in the country. But normally the professor has his manual for his students for his school.

Nebeker:

I noticed in Latin America there were a number of text books that have been used there that were published in Spain. If a professor is very successful with a course, would he then develop it into a textbook?

Ortega:

Sometimes. If a professor is a good professor and has been writing manuals for several years, then it will change from a manual to a book sometimes. Especially if the professor was a very good and experienced professor.

Nebeker:

But since courses are taught using a manual rather then a text book, I suppose there is less incentive to do that?

Ortega:

Well, it depends. For example [shows a book], this book has been written by a professor. Nowadays there is no manual of this. So when there is an appropriate text book they say, “Follow the text book.” For typical work there is not a lot of money, but not in engineering because we have one or two hundred students following this course material. There are some courses on loan that may have 2,000 students following the course and they make a lot of money from the rights of the twenty percent.

Nebeker:

So it’s a business with a nice income.

Ortega:

It is a business for the professors for an open university. For an open university in Spain, a professor has a manual and he may use it for 10,000 students.

Nebeker:

Has there been a tendency in recent years to instead of a manual use a text book in a course?

Ortega:

I would say that one of the problems is that I don’t know exactly what the situation is now, because I have been outside the university for eight years and it is very probable that things have changed, especially in the fields of computer science or telecommunications. But I would say now maybe this school uses thirty percent books and seventy percent manuals, probably. When I started it was one hundred percent manuals, and then we bought the books ourselves if we wanted to know something more that was explained in the manual.

Nebeker:

So it was between ’81 to ’85 that you were director of the school?

Ortega:

Director of the school, yes.

Nebeker:

You said that the school grew considerably in this period.

Ortega:

Yes. The number of professors, the number of students, and the buildings.

Nebeker:

So that clearly was a major part of your job was to oversee that growth. Were there other unusual challenges or problems of those years?

Ortega:

To change the curricula was to collaborate this school in general engineering but in particular this school during this year we were the pioneers on the relationship with industry. There are twenty schools that are Polytechnic universities, and out of say one hundred contracts with industry, seventy would belong to this one particular school. So we have about seventy percent of the number of contracts, not only with industry. For example, after ’86 when we entered the Framework Program with the European Union, this school was the first one in the projects coming from Europe. The Espree program, for example, was the main program of the European Union that year. So, this type of relationship has also been very important because during this stay we have collaborations with some instruction like Fundacion University Impressea [?] who was a member of that foundation, that collaboration, or member of UNESCO like Fundacion de Telephonia [?]. So I participated in this type of intermediate organization between industry and the University.

Nebeker:

So these foundations are to give research funding?

Ortega:

No, this is to make integration between university and industry or even states and government, intermediary institution as a kind of lobby to convey to the industry the importance of research, and also that you have to make applied research for industry.

Industrial and international collaborations

Nebeker:

Before you became director you said that you had yourself some research connections.

Ortega:

Yes, in 1977 I had my first contract with ITT and Standard Electric to make a microwave amplifier.

Nebeker:

And how did you encourage these industry and state connections when you were director?

Ortega:

I was doing a lot of seminars and conferences, and just demonstrating and getting to see what is happening in other countries. The organization sent me there. And the relationship between industry. People were invited from France and from the United Kingdom to explain what they are doing in their countries, we explained what we are doing here in Spain on our first initiative. Then we show them some results and establish that it is good, and that they are they are good fellows—the first thing you have to do is establish trust.

Nebeker:

And interest in what you are doing.

Ortega:

And interest in what you are doing. Also, establishing trust in the people in the university that it is not bad to work for industry. There are many people in the university that think that it is bad and inappropriate for people in the academy to work for industry. It required a lot of time to change these feelings.

For example, before entering the European Community, also in the planification of the government, what we call a national agency, the Commission for Research and Development would be the translation. It is some kind of advisory commission for the development of science and technology.

Nebeker:

This was a government?

Ortega:

Yes, it was a government. In some ways but not exactly, it is like the National Science Foundation. One of the projects that was funded, applying for a project with an industry was favored. So the government tried to promote through these projects the relationships. So if your department or group with an industry applies for a project, it has a better chance. Like in Europe after ’86 in the Framework Program, they favored also not only that you do your research with another university in another country, but also if possible with some industry in other countries

Nebeker:

Is that happened here? Have you had relationships with other countries?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

Of course one very important reason for having these ties to industry is so that the students here get good jobs afterwards. In the United States sometimes doctoral students are also part-time employees in industry, and often the project is related to something that the company is interested in. Has that happened at all?

Ortega:

Yes, sometimes we try to make possible this balance between theoretical, more independent, more basic oriented research, but always very close to the lines of applications of the group.

Nebeker:

Especially in the Silicon Valley and Route 128 around MIT outside of Boston there have been all these spin-off companies. The graduates of Terman’s Electrical Engineering program set up companies. Has that happened in this area?

Ortega:

Yes, but in a very small scale. Eight years ago, there were at least four spin-off companies from this school. One of the very important spin-offs is coming from the Institute of Solar Energy with Professor Lupe. The company was started ten or fifteen years ago, but now it’s a very important company in Spain. There is another company concerning bioengineering for applied medical equipment and medical services. There is another one on telecommunication policy started a year ago. There are three or four years maybe; probably some more that are unknown because not everybody makes things legally. To start the company, and to be a professional, there is some kind of incompatibility. You can go within industry and use the [unintelligible word] with university. But if you maintain your position in the university and participate on the board of administration for the company or to do some things for the company, you have to have some limitation of the [unintelligible words] of the capital, etc. And some people… [laughter]

Nebeker:

I understand. So in 1985, you ended your directorship. What happened then?

Administrative position in research and post-graduate training

Ortega:

Then I was nominated for Vice Director of the University of Research and Post-Graduate training.

Nebeker:

For the entire University?

Ortega:

For the entire University. I was the Director of the whole University, and then Vice Director of the University. I was in charge as the Vice Director for the organization and administration of the political policy of research and for the post-graduates of the University. So I continued my political career further from microwaves. I was the Vice Director of research for two years.

Nebeker:

And did you enjoy that work?

Ortega:

Yes. I enjoyed almost every kind of work, always in the field of policy matters, or the research, education, the university. I think there is time for everything. To do research, you have to be between twenty and maybe thirty-five. Then you can direct research. [laughter]

Nebeker:

You need a lot of graduate students.

Ortega:

Then you need to organize the group. Teaching is another thing than research. There have to be people to organize the research. The school and the university more in the field of [unintelligible word] direction. I enjoyed trying to organize things for other people in research.

Nebeker:

So you were happy with your years as Vice Director?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

And it went well for the University?

Ortega:

I think so. It was a busy year, and was a good year for Spain. All of the [unintelligible word] were very good, in general, for engineering, for Spain, and especially for telecommunications and computer science. So it was easy.

Organizational reform at Polytechnic University

Nebeker:

So what happened in ’87?

Ortega:

In ’87 I came back to school here. In ’88, the final year was ’87. There was a second sequence of a new law at the University in October 1983 of reform. Then in 1985, the university has to organize everything in the new organization, the new statute of the university. As a consequence, there was also a change of the organization of teaching and research in the business school. It was a new department, a new structure, more based on departments than faculties. So it was a change for a legal organization.

Nebeker:

Can you explain that to me? You said faculties to departments?

Ortega:

Right. Well, the department in Polytechnic has been impossible, and for all this [unintelligible]. But the new law tried to say that the school or the faculty is only just an organization for the [unintelligible word]. But research and teaching has to be made on the departments with the departments—the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Electronics, etc. So the department came to be more important than the faculty. The faculty was only there in the strategic organization just for the life, for the office, for the facilities. In many universities, especially the younger more modern universities, have adopted this structure. Department of Engineering has been impossible. There are departments, but there is the school [unintelligible]. In fact, Polytechnic University is not a university in the modern sense of the departmental university. It’s more a federation of the school. It’s a school, and this university is strong.

Nebeker:

And they have different structures?

Ortega:

Different structure, and the power of the school is very important in the government of the universities. It’s more like a federation of the schools. In this case, Polytechnic of Madrid, because it’s a very old school, a school that has more than 200 years of history. One of the first schools of engineering in the world was the Mining School in Madrid, which came about two years after the [unintelligible word] in France which began in 1777, I think.

So as a consequence of this, I returned to the school to be the Chief of the new department that was called Señales Sistems y Radio Communication. There was a department that joined five of these groups I have told you about before. The was the Chair of Radiation, the Chair of Microwaves, the Chair of Signal. There were five. The Chair of [unintelligible word]. Before this remodelation were groups of chairs. Then maybe there are ten professionals or assistants in the department. This department had fifty-one 51 full professors.

Nebeker:

Very large. And this is only part of the telecommunications? Is this the entire telecommunications?

Ortega:

No, it’s a school. Each university has its own [unintelligible word] and its own department. This department is the biggest department in the school.

Nebeker:

But there are other departments in this school?

Ortega:

Yes. There is a Department of Telematics, and one for the application of computer science, which is also very big. Then there are also four small departments of electronics. The people from electronics cannot join together. It’s a problem of autonomy. It was impossible. When I was the Director I tried to say we had to do only one Department of Electronics. But when people don’t want to be joined, it’s better to say okay; to live and let live.

Administration of revised University structure

Ortega:

So I was the Director of this department only for one year, because in this school there was a very strong crisis. The Director was Professor Rukae and then we changed. And then comes other people. The Director I would say was very bad. The school was in a very bad situation. The students were [unintelligible]. So the Director was only in the Board of the school. He had no presentation of the professor, the students, etc. And the Director was only from the students. Most of the professors didn’t like how the Director was doing things. So there was a crisis, and the new Director also resigned. Nobody wanted to be the Director of the school, and our rules state that when nobody wants to be Director, the Director nominate directly to the Director. Because the Director of the school is elected by the Board. It is a [unintelligible word] a professor of different types of students, a Professor of Administration. There was nobody who wanted to be elected as Director.

Nebeker:

Is this when you were head of the Department?

Ortega:

Head of the Department. At the end of 1989, the Director said, “You are nominated as Director,” without election. From 1989 to 1994, I was the Director.

Nebeker:

So you were again directing the school?

Ortega:

Yes. Another period.

Nebeker:

That must have been challenging, at the start at least. How did that go?

Ortega:

Well, it went very well because nobody wanted to be Director, so everybody was very grateful to the people who wanted to accept the nomination for Director. I tried to pacify the people.

Nebeker:

What were the issues? Why was there a conflict? I assume it was more than personalities, which always conflict. Was it mainly personalities? Not issues that the students wanted to go…?

Ortega:

No, mainly that. No. Some people say that when you try to direct curricula-- To have a professor you have to have many hours of classes. So for a mathematician, mathematics is the most important. We need one hundred [unintelligible word] in Mathematics. And physics says no, Physics is most important. We need one hundred in physics. We need also a new laboratory, and we need a new office, and we need this. And Electronics is the most important, and people say, “Well, electronics from the 19-- [laughs]. Now the important thing is a computer or telematics. Then you have to try to balance all of these interests, and it’s very difficult because the fund is deficient about the curricula, about the [unintelligible word], about the facilities, etc., most of them have to be voted in the board of the school. If you are the Director, you have to be the director for those people. So you have to speak with people and talk with them. So this is mainly a problem of this type. There are people, for example, that consider to be a professor you have to suspend more than fifty percent of the students.

Nebeker:

Is that right?

Ortega:

Oh, yes.

Nebeker:

My goodness! That would never work in the United States.

Ortega:

No, no. It’s quite the contrary. In Spain in some of the engineering schools, and especially in the older schools, there is some cultural tradition that states that an engineer has to be a very strong [unintelligible]. So on one hand for the student, you have to pass on the first time only thirty or fifty percent, even in some cases two percent. There are some people in the school of this type. I say this is impossible. You have to change your methods of evaluation for examination, and some of them in the contrary, say, “Oh, there is no examination. All of the students have to pass.” Especially when you need professors, as for the Department of Astronomy, for the Department of Signal, for the departments who are the best.

Nebeker:

So you had a job of working with all of these different interests and then trying to…?

Ortega:

So with the work for the Director of the school, on my card after my name I put the title bebeheme. This is the fireman, bombero, and bordador. Bordador is the people that make clothes.

Nebeker:

Like a sewer or a tailor?

Ortega:

Yes. More sewer than tailor. But very fine needlework. And this is the people that play pipes, guitero. They play the gaita, a Scottish pipe. The bombero is for putting out fire; bordador is because you have to do very fine work.

Nebeker:

That’s embroidery.

Ortega:

Embroidery. And this is for the gaitas, we say temply gaitas—you have to put the gaita in conditions to work.

Nebeker:

To tune?

Ortega:

To tune gaitas. Right. This is an expression. You know, pagar fuegos, make embroidery; and to tune gaitas. These are the main qualities to be Director of one school.

Nebeker:

Well, you lasted for five years, it sounds like. And was this departmental structure fairly new at the time?

Ortega:

Yes, it started in 1987 when it came back to the school in 1987.

Nebeker:

So part of the problem was adjustment to the new department structure?

Ortega:

Adjustment to the new department structure, and this was always-- especially when you are growing and the [unintelligible word] are growing, the problems are less, because you have facilities, man and professor. From 1987 to 1991 or 1992, there was no growth. In no growth you have to change the situation without money, and it’s very difficult. You have to have the reforms. When I tried to go to Minister of Education of people from financing universities, they said it was impossible. One of the laws of thermodynamics says that to have useful work, these has to be two different energy levels. Otherwise, there is no useful work, but all there is, is heat. In universities, you have to have reforms. You have to put another level of financing for universities, otherwise all is heat. Heat is what will happen frequently in universities. There is a new kind of study, a new [unintelligible] where is the money. So you have to do that. [Unintelligible word] without money. This was one of these periods.

Nebeker:

A difficult time. Were there any other particular challenges, or other things to say about this period, the second period when you directed the school?

Ortega:

No. Especially during 1991 to 1994 there was a period where we made an expansion of the demand.

Nebeker:

So after 1991 things improved.

Ortega:

I think from 1987 to 1991 was a period of time of stopping the growth. This was another period of growing: growing of the industry, growing of the demand, growing of telecommunications, growing of information technology. In Europe it was a period of growth. We have to contract the [unintelligible] building. [Unintelligible] research, the contract, and the students. There were a lot of schools in Spain. We started in 1992, and then we finally finished the work in 1994. We made a new plan at this time, a new curricula. Another organization.

Nebeker:

For the whole school?

Ortega:

The whole school. For the whole school. As a consequence of the reform of the university in 1987, the government said the new way to establish the curricula, ideas, some kind of 300 or 400 people here, in an organization of this kind. But in general, that was rejected by most of the engineers. Younger engineers in general, and especially in this period, are very conservative people.

Nebeker:

They didn’t want to adopt the school curriculum.

Ortega:

Yes. There were even some problems in the Supreme Court between engineers from the School of Engineers and the government.

Nebeker:

Over this reform?

Ortega:

Over this reform.

Nebeker:

Is that right?

Ortega:

Yes. Especially in civil engineering, mining engineering, and what we call the stone engineers. So we made a new plan. According to the new rules of the government. It was in some ways difficult, but it was a period of optimism. We made a plan that was considered the first curricula in the Polytechnic University that follows the lines and the rules of the government. I’ve had many discussions with people from industrial engineering or from civil engineering, because they say, “Vicente, you are going to produce second class engineers.” And I say, “Okay. That’s good for you. You will be the first class engineers. Why do you worry about that? Okay? Thank you very much for your interest.” Because they do not want to do this change the government promoted. And the situation is that now all engineers of the school are indifferent. But we did it in 1994, what now some of the School of Engineering are doing now, almost ten years before. This has been very good.

Nebeker:

You think the reform was good?

Ortega:

Yes. It was very good because society appreciates that we are a school that is continuing doing tenures. We are trying to adapt our situation. We are in contact with the society and with industry. Other schools are planning to come back to running the Corps of Engineers—the elite. So I think it was very interesting, especially for this.

Nebeker:

Well, there must have been difficulty in your school also to bring about this reform.

Ortega:

Yes. It took two years of continuous discussions. You have to talk a lot. Authority in universities is not divided as in industry.

Nebeker:

Yes, from the top down.

Ortega:

The elected authorities, some kind of moral authority. It’s authority, not power—you know, the difference between power and authority. You have to gain the authority. That’s required with conversation, talking to people, etc. But it worked very well. This is the plan of the curricula actually being practiced.

Now, because of [inaudible word] we are trying to do a new reform, where we are trying to implement the model approach to the bachelor, master, doctoral student. Again, there is going to be resistance to part of another School of Engineering, or the profession of engineers. Each time there is a reform in the engineering curricula, most of the engineering profession and fifty percent of the school, they say what they want is just to kill engineers. They are people from humanities, from politics, and from law, that they want to kill the trustees of engineering. I am concerned about the privileges for older engineers. But it depends also on the kind of profession you are in. All of the professions, computers, telecommunications, even the profession is very different from the profession of engineering that are in professional corps of the administration.

Becoming director of University of Alfonzo del Sabio

Nebeker:

So in 1994, you accepted the position for the government.

Ortega:

No, in 1994, I left the school and the university. I was the first director of the first private university in this country.

Nebeker:

You became director for which university?

Ortega:

The University of Alfonzo del Sabio.

Nebeker:

Alfonz the Wise.

Ortega:

Alfonz the Wise. It is a private, non-Catholic university. This is a private university under the new law for universities, and I was designated by the Board of Trustees as director just to put this university…

Nebeker:

On its feet, so to speak?

Ortega:

Yes. This university was mainly engineering. From the eight categories, we started with five engineering, industrial communication, computers [unintelligible word], and then law and economics. I was there one and a half years. The first promoters of this university was the model of the American university. So it was a long-term university, not to earn money in the first year, the quality, etc. But equipping with professors was very successful since we paid a lot more than the public universities. I tried to apply the principle of Stanford in some way. It is more flexible if it is not a public institution. The rules for a public institution are less flexible. In a private institution you can contract professors and do more organization, etc. That worked very well. Then after about one and a half years the president of the university and the Board of Administration changed, and the new president was only concerned with earning money, by the easy way. The easiest way is to just pay very little to the professors, and to pass all of the students, and meet all of the students. I disagree with this new policy of the Board of Administration.

Nebeker:

So you resigned?

Ortega:

Yes, I resigned.

Nebeker:

And was this university continued?

Ortega:

Yes, it continued. It was a good business. The president is a very clever person, what is called a shark.

Nebeker:

Of course, that is a problem in the United States, that because of the competition of universities we have often that exactly that, with some lower standards.

Ortega:

Sure. The 1990s has also been the decade of expanding the number of students. In 1990, there was around 800,000 students in all of Spain. In 1999, there were 1.5 million. So for private universities that doesn’t have any standard of admission, and that passes all the students to be engineers if the family pays, it’s a good business. But bad quality. For the quality in Spain now, we are doing evaluations and rankings. But until now, it was important for many people to have a degree. I have many friends in my village that have a small industry. People without studies in the university, people in the industry of wool or the industry of fashion, etc, they send their sons to the university. But for example, it is difficult to enter the Polytechnic because you have to have high points. So they go to private universities to be engineers, and they don’t worry about the quality. The only thing they want to have is that degree, because in Spain the degree is more important for professional development than in the United States, where the degree is an academic degree. In Spain, the degree is at the same time academic and professional.

Nebeker:

So you have to have a degree to function?

Ortega:

Yes. A professional corporation, if you have an academic degree you can immediately enter in the professional organization. So the title is not only an academic degree but it is also a professional title.

Nebeker:

So you can’t even call yourself that without the degree?

Service as General Director for Universities of Madrid

Ortega:

No. So after this, in 1995, I was nominated by the new government of Madrid as the General Director for Universities of Madrid. There are eight universities in Madrid. So the competence of universities in 1955 was transferred to the regional government.

Nebeker:

So earlier it was directed from the whole country.

Ortega:

Earlier by nation. But now, eighty percent of the financial competence belongs to the regional government. Then in 1995 the national government transferred the competence of universities to the government of Madrid, the region of Madrid. Then the education and culture was [inaudible] of ministries. It was the universities on the one hand. And I was the General Director for the university system of Madrid. And there were five public universities, and then there were three private universities.

Nebeker:

Including the Alfonso?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

So you returned as General Director.

Ortega:

Yes. And now there are six public universities and five private universities in Madrid. I was responsible for the university policy for the region of Madrid, and mainly to finance new universities. That was one of the problems. The President of the government of Madrid was a very good president. In the field of priorities for Madrid, the first one was the metal [correct word?] and the second was universities. We increased the financing of Madrid universities a lot—in two years, twenty percent.

Nebeker:

And what percent of the financing comes from the region of Madrid?

Ortega:

Practical, eighty percent. The government financed the student support. Then maybe we share it’s national content. But eighty percent of the budget of the university came from the regional government.

Nebeker:

So the financing of the university was your main concern in that job?

Ortega:

Yes, the main function of that job, and a very difficult function, with all the directors continually saying, “We have no money. We need more money.” Because if you have a transferred budget from the government, say in four years it is easy to make some kind of policy when there is growth in the resources. And there was very good work, and I think the Director of Madrid appreciated this work. It was a good increase of resources for research, for teaching, for professors, for salaries of the professors, etc. I was there almost four years as the General Director of Madrid, from July of 1995 to March of 1999.

Nebeker:

How did you like those years?

Ortega:

I was very happy. I think I did a good work for the university, and I learned a lot about the university policy, university financing, university quality. I had lot of good relationships. It was very, very useful work. And it was not very difficult because of the increases. You have something to eat. The taxes this year, you don’t have anything but rules. You have only rules, and no money.

Nebeker:

You’re not welcome.

Ortega:

The second law of thermodynamics. It was very, very good. I knew a lot of people, directors of universities, a lot of professors. Personally, I enriched my life. Also, my vision of the university, because one of the problems with the universities in Spain is that there is no mobility. People start life as a professor, and went through their entire life at the same university in the same school. People don’t change, and that’s not good. You have to move, to go to a foreign country or a different university to spend four, five, six, ten years in another university, and then come back to your university.

The model in the United States is very different for a professor. Especially to spend the first twenty years always in the same university, and in the same university where he has been a student. Many of the problems in the school in fact, come from this situation, because people have only a narrow vision of university life. You know only one thing, [unintelligible word] of government, involvement in your concept, or teaching of research of the organization of the university. You know another model, a model that is different than the model of the Polytechnica. The model from the Capital of Terethero [correct name?] is this general university is different from Conflutencia [correct word?] and Polytechnica.

Nebeker:

What about regions of Spain? There has not been a lot of transfer? If somebody gets his degree in Granada?

Ortega:

Mobility and transfer is very small. It is one of the problems. One of the tendons underlying the development of Bologna is mobility—mobility between professors, mobility between the students, etc. But mobility needs money. Money and culture. The culture normally in Spain is if you are in a village, you study in the village. If it’s possible to put a university in your village, you are in the university of your village, you’re married in the village.

Nebeker:

And I suppose that is because the regions have a good deal of autonomy, you have more identification with your region and less with the country as a whole.

Ortega:

Yes. And they have a lot of competence with the new institution. So Spain is a very decentralized state. It is not federal; it’s quasi-federal. So the competence of universities are confidential in the regional governments. But Madrid is one of the regions most important to Spain because we have eleven universities, six of which are public. And a lot of people now are coming from other regions to Madrid.

Nebeker:

Is that new?

Ortega:

Yes. Because one of the things I did when I was in the next post in the Administer of Education is to establish what we call the open district. Until two years ago, a student had to go to a university in his own region, as long as there were five percent that could move. Until two years ago, the student had to apply for the universities in his own region, and only five percent can move. Now we made a decree or law to say that Spain is an open district. Every student, independent of the region, if he has completed his secondary studies, he can apply for any university in the country.

Nebeker:

And be considered on the same basis?

Ortega:

Yes, be considered on the same basis as anybody.

Nebeker:

That sounds like a major reform.

Ortega:

Yes. And it is a good reform, especially for this school, because it has increased the demand for this school. In some ways it has introduced some indicators of quality. At this school we have many students from other parts of Spain, and they are the best students from other parts of Spain, because we need a qualification of greater than eight points to enter this school.

Nebeker:

So earlier it was very limited how many students from other parts of Spain studied here.

Ortega:

Three or four percent; five at most. Now it’s twenty or thirty percent.

Nebeker:

Good. That’s very interesting.

Ortega:

Probably for the future, it will happen like it is in the United States where there are very good universities, inter-world [correct word?] universities, and there are normal universities, and bad universities. In the United States, how many universities? Maybe 3,000?

Nebeker:

Thousands. Yes.

Ortega:

Thousands of universities. But society says, “Okay, you are graduate from San Jose State.” This is different from Caltech, from Harvard, from Princeton, from Yale. Probably here in Spain we are going this way. There are twenty-four schools of telecommunications in Spain. Any student that wants to study telecommunications can study telecommunications.

Nebeker:

Can get in somewhere.

Ortega:

In Bidololi [correct word?], in Captifina [correct word?], or in other places, Northern Madrid, or Barcelona.

National leadership as General Secretary of the Council of Universities

Nebeker:

What was the position that you then took in 1999?

Ortega:

Well, it was more or less the same position, but in this case for the entire country, as the General Secretary of the Council of Universities. The Council of Universities is something of an advisory body, where there is the President or the Minister, and the General Secretary. There is also the Board of Directors of all of the universities, the General Director of all Communities, and fifteen people that are nominated by the Parliament. There are around one hundred people as the plenary of the country that has the function of counseling, [unintelligible word], the curricula, to all of the decrees of the law made by the government has to be…

Nebeker:

Approved by them?

Ortega:

Approved? No, because this is an advisory board. It is to inform them, to discuss, and to set recommendations to the government.

Nebeker:

And what was your title?

Ortega:

General Secretary of the Council of Universities. It has been very useful and interesting work. I have had the opportunity to know five or six directors, and many vice directors. Here, you get the opportunity to know all of the directors of Spain, all of the General Directors, and to have a vision for the problems of Spain, for university policy in Spain. I’m not talking about just university policy, but all the policy in Spain. It’s a good observatory of the different regions, and the regions with this problem, fifty-nine universities, that are all very different: private, public, etc. So for me from a professional point of view, it has been a very interesting experience. The last year has been a very hard year because the government has put into policy the new law for universities, and it has been discussed by the directors, and part of the society has been in a fight between the ministers and directors. It has been a [unintelligible word] time between the government and the directors.

Nebeker:

Is the intention for this board or this group to reach agreement, and then go to the government and say…

Ortega:

If possible. There may be some agreement can come from the Council, and then just present it to the government for its consideration. Sometimes the government presents its laws, and the Council has to discuss them and say, “This is good. This is not.” In this case it has been the government will present the law to the Parliament. But before presenting the law to the Parliament, it has to be formally discussed in the Council. The discussion has been between most of the directors—not all, but most—a committee of them, fifty percent of the communities. Fifty percent is the government of the government party of the National Party, Party de Popular, fifty percent are Socialists. The Socialists say the law is bad. The other, without looking, says it is good. And the Parliament, it also depends. People are nominated by Socialists, and people are nominated by the Party de Popular, so that’s very good. But the directors, the political party, most of them say they don’t like the law. Probably the law [unintelligible] are very good. But normally in my experience, the universities in Spain are personally a professional group of professors, etc. [Unintelligible] people. [Unintelligible sentence] organization. In some cases, in reaction and direction.

Nebeker:

Your position as General Secretary, was that to try to get agreement in response to the government proposal?

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

You were trying to mediate discussions and maybe try to modify the law so you satisfied people?

Ortega:

Yes, that was one thing. It has been very, very difficult. The location of the new law has made for impossible agreement with most of the directors and the government.

Nebeker:

Has there been a politicization of the whole thing? Are the directors identified with political parties, and does it become a political…?

Ortega:

In some cases. Maybe twenty percent of the directors are members of the non-Socialist Party. Maybe five or ten percent are members of the Popular Party. But I don’t say in this case, because being Socialists or not, they are directors, and they have a lot of power, and they are used to a way of doing things, and they know how to do these things very well. When you change the way to do things and try to limit the power of the directors, they don’t like it. They are thinking more in [unintelligible word] than in society. Because the degree of autonomy of universities in Spain is very large. They say, “We are autonomous universities. Nobody has to say what we have to do. We are the most clever in the world.”

Nebeker:

Nobody likes to be told how to do things.

Ortega:

Right.

Nebeker:

But it’s interesting that in your career, you have a number of times been in the position of trying to get people to change.

Ortega:

Yes.

Nebeker:

And you still seem happy. [laughter]

Ortega:

Yes. I have always been a student. I can say, having been a professor, I have been continuing learning, first as professor of research, and then as the director of the schools. I have continued learning and trying to change things.

Return to professorship

Nebeker:

So you’ve recently retired from that position?

Ortega:

Yes. It’s been eight years [unintelligible] politics. I have some feeling [unintelligible]. I continued to teach occasionally in summer courses or invited courses at the university because I love to teach. I enjoy teaching. So I have to now start with these types of courses that I gave up eight years ago.

Nebeker:

So you have resumed your professorship here?

Ortega:

Yes. Now I am a professor in this school in the same category that I was when I left this university. I tried to improve this type of teaching courses on the history of ???ology, the history of engineering, foundations of engineering, engineering and ethics. But to teach about the microwaves, mathematics, and I don’t know, they were [inaudible]. The microwaves and senior theory.

Social roles of engineering

Nebeker:

I am, of course, very pleased that you are interested in history and philosophy, and I gather, also the social position of engineering in society.

Ortega:

Well, when I was a student Stanford, there was a minor they called it Values, Technology, Science, and Society. That was a bachelor program. Then it was a minor. I took some of the courses of this minor. I liked it. I tried to do something I started ten or fifteen years ago introducing it, because the culture of engineering is very difficult to introduce this type of material, especially if you need more mathematics, more physics, more electronics. It’s very difficult. Thanks to my first period as Director, I can introduce at least one. Now with the new organization, there are two, and especially from the free election, you say, “Okay. [Unintelligible].” It was one of the lectures that was very important for me from the book from Ortega y Gasset. Ortega y Gasset was a philosopher from Spain. He has a book called Meditacion de la Technica. It’s thinking about techniques. It’s very good. Let me read from my book. It’s in Spanish. In the introduction he says to be an engineer, you have to be something more than an engineer. They are referring to the Great Depression in 1929 and in the 1930s. Engineers engaging in this fabulous apparatus [unintelligible]. So the reality sometimes goes beyond the technique. So the engineer has to be flexible about his own function, his own sociality, not only to be technically skilled. He has to be something more than an engineer. Then I have this book of Florman, the Civilized Engineer. Let me give you this.

Nebeker:

Thank you. Engineering and Civilization. Thank you very much.