The Organic Law of the University System (LOSU) was finally approved this Thursday morning with 182 votes in favor of the PSOE, Podemos, ERC, PNV, Más País, Compromís, Teruel Existe, Coalición Canaria, Nueva Canarias and PDCAT. The Government, among the commitments to receive European recovery funds, made a commitment to Brussels to reform a university that is not very agile in its management and transparency, which delays any transformation in a constantly changing world. The interests of the different groups (unions, rectors and students) are so opposed that in seven years of the Government of Mariano Rajoy, the PP did not open that Pandora’s box.
The previous norm, the Organic Law of Universities (LOU), dates from 2001. The one approved this Thursday is a text conceived by former minister Manuel Castells as a communal exercise ―after meetings with dozens of groups without a basic document― developed with many lurches and culminated by his successor, Joan Subirats, in the traditional way, with significant differences from the original. The LOSU has then undergone further changes in the amendments. Junts and Bildu have abstained ―in total 8 votes― and have voted against PP, Vox, Ciudadanos, UPN, the PRC, CUP and Bloque Galego (157).
Some bases for the self-government of universities
Castells proposed legislating in detail the composition and operation of the governing and participation bodies, but Subirats has finally agreed with the parties on a “basic law”, so that each university, through its statutes, will decide how to govern itself and structure. The Executive maintains that all institutions cannot be subjected to the same model, since they are very different (with an international vocation, focused on their territory, small and large…). This “framework law” which, in his opinion, respects the powers of the autonomies and universities, partly explains the vote of the nationalist parties.
The path to the rectory, more open
Not only professors may apply for the post of rector, but any tenured or permanent labor professor with the scientific, teaching and management merits established by the university in its statutes. They will have a single term of six years; now the rectors do not make risky decisions in the first for fear of not being re-elected for the second. With the LOSU, these charges will elect a third of the governing council, the management body, to make it easier for them to implement their policies to the detriment of the power (in the opinion of many, excessive) of the deaneries or the mammoth departments.
Transparency in contests
Almost three out of four professors teach at the university where they received their doctorate, a negative figure for the internationalization of campuses and the transfer of knowledge. With the new public tender model, the ministry aspires to promote transparency and questionable objectivity. The majority of the court will be made up of professors from outside the university chosen by public lottery (after drawing up a list of professors) and the call will be published in a registry.
Mechanisms against precariousness
Spain has committed to Brussels to reduce job instability in the public sector by up to 8%, and this will force the universities to convert the 26,000 associate professors into part-time permanent workers with seniority, unemployment and vacation rights. In addition, the campuses are going to “favor” a way for false associates (who have no other main occupation) who have read the thesis to become PhD assistants, as their teaching work is valued more (many have barely done science). The Federation of Young Researchers ―made up of scientists in precarious positions with stays abroad― has issued a very harsh statement this week against the article: “The academic career in our country often consists of a kind of ‘endure here the precariousness , that your place will come out ”. Spanish scientists abroad, he laments, are not favored.
The LOSU creates the figure of permanent labor professor (to which those accredited as contracted doctors will be included). This profile already exists in Catalonia and the Basque Country and allows, after accreditation of merits in a local evaluation agency, to hire researchers with a solid track record in parallel to the civil service system. The unions are concerned that it will serve to put plugged in. The local agencies take power and the deputy María Jesús Moro, spokesperson for the PP universities, has asked in plenary if this explains why the outgoing director of ANECA, the national entity, Mercedes Siles, has not been renewed, who has expressed publicly their disagreement with decentralization.
The figure of assistant disappears and young researchers will have a “stable and predictable” career, since they will not be able to be more than six years as doctoral assistants ―the first level of the academic career―, with an evaluation three years after the contract. The substitute professor will not be able to teach more class hours than those of the replaced one, nor will the visiting professor remain in the position forever, as is the case now. “(The financing) will allow the academic career to be cut for the permanence of the professors, lowering the average age to become fixed from 45 to 35 years,” Subirats explained after the vote.
The mother of all discussions is the financing of the new law, which for its application requires a large outlay in salaries. The essential problem is that 77% of the funds are put up by the autonomous communities and in the commitment to the university the differences are abysmal. Although in a first version of the law, governments were forced to allocate 1% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to universities by 2030, it has finally become a recommendation after criticism from many politicians, such as the socialist Emiliano García Page , President of Castilla-La Mancha. “It’s a ‘I invite and you pay'”, the deputy María Jesús Moro has illustrated in plenary session. The text reads as follows: “The autonomous communities and universities share the objective of allocating at least 1% of GDP to public spending on university education…”. For this, in the general budgets, in the regional ones and in those of the universities, contributions will be established each year that should be increasing. Investment in universities is now around 0.7% of GDP.
Feminism and climate change
In some oppositions, with equal suitability (merits), universities may make positive discrimination decisions to favor the presence of the minority gender (usually women). In Spain there are no professors, according to data from last year, of Language Didactics, Physiotherapy or Traumatology. Private halls of residence that segregate by sex and want to remain attached to public universities and maintain their name, will be forced to gather students. The article was incorporated as an amendment after the macho chants at the Elías Ahuja school in Madrid. Campuses will also have to develop a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy.
The neutrality debate
One of the most controversial points of the law – to which the right and the extreme right cling tightly – is an amendment approved by the nationalists that allows the cloisters to “analyze and debate other issues of special importance.” More than 1,200 professors, the majority Catalan, spoke out against it in a letter: “That the Government make it clear that there is institutional neutrality in academic bodies.” The Executive, after the commotion over the letter, he assured that with his votes they had stopped the cloisters from being able to position themselves —only debate—, as Esquerra and Bildu claimed. “Guaranteing ideological pluralism is when you get the university to remain faithful to its founding principles”, Subirats has argued.
Promotion of adult students
The cohort of young people who reach university is doomed to decrease due to demographic issues and, in parallel, the working population will have to retrain their knowledge if they do not want to be left behind. That is why it is going to be promoted that adults without a baccalaureate, but with great experience in a field, attend the university so that they can delve into it; and the so-called “lifelong learning” will be promoted through courses of greater or lesser duration. The ministry is already preparing a pilot program for micro-credentials – not only for university graduates – with a budget of 50 million euros.
Subirats goes beyond the Ministry of Science, in his bid for science to reach all citizens. Although they are financed with private money, the investigations of the public universities will be of free and open access; Contracts with scientific journals, which have found a gold mine in universities, should be more transparent and in the evaluations of a researcher, publications linked to the territory will be taken into account even if they are not indexed in an international registry.
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