EVOO Interviews

The University of Jaén presents the world’s first doctorate in olive oil

Written by Veronica Lavenia

The doctorate is the highest academic qualification, the aim of which is to train future scholars and professionals.
If in the wine sector the oenologist, with university studies, is the most complete figure for that sector, in the olive world there is still no degree that trains professionals in the sector completely and at such a high level.

It is no wonder that the first University in the world to create a unique research doctorate on olive oil is the University of Jaén. No wonder why Jaén, a charming city in Andalusia, with the highest concentration of olive groves in the world, has become the World Olive Oil Capital.

Sebastian Sanchez Villasclaras, Professor of the Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering (University of Jaén) and Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Olive Groves and Olive Oils introduces the course and all the potentialities connected to it. Also open to foreign graduates.
The importance of training is fundamental to create professionals capable of growing a sector potentially rich in professional opportunities, as EVOO.

The University of Jaén is among the most recognized in the world for the attention paid over the years to the dissemination of the culture of extra virgin olive oil. Undoubtedly, the fact that Jaén has become “The world capital of olive oil”, due to the high concentration of quality extra virgin olive oil production, is also an added value for the academic sector. How important is the training contribution of the Universities of the Extra virgin olive oil producing countries and what objectives does the University of Jaén propose to enhance the training offer, starting with degrees, seminars, scholarships …?

Since the creation of the University of Jaén (UJA), in 1993, one of the three strategic lines of research implemented was on the olive grove and olive oils and in general on the entire olive industry. Perhaps, 26 years after this first initiative, it is appreciated that the University of Jaén begins to stand out in some way in the academic and research field in an international context. In the academic subject, the (UJA) imparts different degrees, among which it is worth highlighting for its international character:

– The Official Master in ‘Olivar y Oils de Oliva’.
– And the Title of University Expert in Virgin Olive Oil Tasting.

At the level of the third University Cycle, the UJA has solidly implemented the Doctorate Program ‘Olive Oils’.

At the research level, the major activity at the University of Jaén is centered on the ‘Center for Advanced Studies in Olive Groves and Olive Oils’ (CEA OLIVAR), which in the coming months will be officially transformed into’ University Research Institute in Olivar and Olive Oils’.

In this training process, you were the first Athenaeum to establish a research doctorate in olive oil. When was the idea born?

This idea of the Doctoral Program was born more than a decade ago in support of the strategic line on ‘Olivar y Aceites de Oliva’ that has been mentioned in question 1, and also in response to the existing demand by students from Spain and from other countries.

How is the Doctorate structured and who is it for? Can foreign students also participate?

The Doctorate program is structured around a set of research lines offered by the different CEA OLIVAR research units and by other research groups at the University of Jaén.
Currently, a significant part of the students are from other countries, such as Germany, Brazil, Tunisia, Jordan and Portugal. At this point we wish to emphasize that we are aware we have created a unique program of its kind.

Does the University of Jaén also collaborate with local and Spanish extra virgin olive oil producers?

In general, increasingly, the University of Jaén through the ‘Center for Advanced Studies in Olivar and Olive Oils’ and its Research Units collaborates with the producers of virgin olive oils at a local, national and even international level through contracts and research projects.

In recent years, the international market for extra virgin olive oil has become increasingly competitive. The so-called artisan companies work with high-level technology, offering high-quality products. With the same quality, the difference is in the ability to communicate the product. Does the doctorate or, more generally, the training offer at the University of Jaén also offers tools to train professionals in olive communication?

Indeed, some lines of research in the Doctorate Program are focused on the subject of Marketing and Marketing, in addition to communication, of Olive Oils. Currently, students from Germany and Brazil are developing their Doctoral Thesis in this line of research in the Doctoral Program.

Why does the study of the culture of extra virgin olive oil in Jaén make a difference?

In general, we think that in the province of Jaén there may be a certain culture about Extra Virgin Olive Oils. However, we wish it were bigger. In this sense, we must continue working, not only at the level of Jaén, but at the level of Spain. This is one of the tasks of the Center for Advanced Studies in Olivar y Aceites de Oliva.

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic).
Italian based writer and magazine contributor.
Authors of six books (five cookbooks), some of her works have appeared in the most popular International food magazine, as "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; "Chickpea"; "Gluten free Heaven";" TML", among others.
Food Connoisseur.
EVOO Communicator.
Founder of #evoostories and #storiedievo at @veronicalavenia_
Founder of the EVOO Column at "The Wolf Post".
Translator at "The Wolf Post".