December 7, 2023

Madrid has the highest per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Spain (34,821 euros per inhabitant), a good industrial fabric, benefits from being the capital ―most of the national research centers are located there― and good communications to attract talent; and yet their university system does not take advantage of it. According to the tenth ranking of the Fundación Conocimiento y Desarrollo, presented this Tuesday, the Madrid system is not among the three with the highest performance in the country in any of the four major parameters (divided into 36 official indicators), which have been analyzed taking into account its size counts: teaching, research, international orientation and contribution to regional development. Madrid and Catalonia, although they have dropped, are still the regions with the highest enrollment rates in Spain in the public network; they charge their students twice as much as in Galicia.

Madrid only achieves a meritorious score in 15 of the 36 indicators (in 14 it remains sufficient and in 7 it fails), compared to the 28 outstanding in Catalonia and Navarra and the 23 in the Basque Country, according to the data from the campuses and the State analyzed by the CYD Foundation, made up of large companies, including the Chamber of Commerce, Telefónica or PRISA, publisher of EL PAÍS. These three regions have, after the capital, the highest GDP in Spain.

Madrid has the same points as Castilla y León and Aragón, and behind the Valencian Community (17). As red lanterns are Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia, with good indicators only in six of the 36, which have three of the worst GDPs in Spain and, therefore, their governments must make a greater effort not to be left behind.

“What we see in this edition and in past editions is that Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country have been standing out. The Madrid university system is fourth or fifth, tied with Aragon this time”, explains Ángela Mediavilla, director of the CYD ranking. “We build the indicators, we do not enter into a valuation analysis, but we see that it is a trend that remains fairly constant.” Mediavilla goes into detail: “If you look at the university by university, its indicators in research and international orientation, you see that there needs to be a balance between all of them (those of autonomy) for the system to stand out.”

The Community of Madrid is the region with the most students in Spain (18% of the total in bachelor’s degrees and 20.8% in master’s degrees) and is home to 20% of the universities, but it is weighed down by a budget problem for its six public universities , and its 13 private universities are far from being a tractor engine. On the contrary, the private ones have their results in research and knowledge transfer underlined in red ―they barely invest, but a decree from the Ministry of Universities is going to force them to do so if they do not want to close― according to the data from the CyD Foundation. This happens in other regions with private ones, but none have as many (three out of 10 of these institutions are in Madrid) and they represent a drag on their total numbers and their brand image. The capital aspires to become a “university hub in Spanish” that competes with Miami. At present, Navarra, Catalonia and the Basque Country are ahead in international orientation; Its objective is to improve the mobility of students and thesis of foreigners.

“Madrid stands out for being the second region with the highest income per student in terms of fees (after Catalonia, now tied), public prices and others; and the one with the least current and capital transfers received (by the universities), if these are divided by the total number of students”, remarks CyD in its analysis Spanish universities. A regional perspective 2021. Two other reports commissioned by the regional government when Ciudadanos directed the Ministry of Science and Universities ―one from the European Society and Education Foundation and another from the Unesco Chair of the Polytechnic of Madrid, ignored when they were finished― point in the same direction.

Although, if the quality of its campuses is detailed one by one, there are two very cutting-edge publics in Madrid: the Autónoma and the Carlos III are in the group with the highest performance in 25 and 24, respectively, of the 36 indicators, which lead the universities of Barcelona (29) and Navarra (28). La Complutense (eight) and Politécnica de Madrid (17) are very strong in certain fields, but their global numbers are very discreet, and those of Rey Juan Carlos (five) and Alcalá (12) are poor. On the contrary, the four public universities of Barcelona are above 18.

Only one private company from Madrid gets a good position ―Pontificia de Comillas, 23― and the rest are positioned among the 16 good indicators of the Francisco de Vitoria and the three of the Distance University of Madrid. Among the private companies in all of Spain, Deusto (Bilbao, 22) and Ramón Llull (Barcelona, ​​20) also rank very high.

The traditional strength of Catalonia

Catalonia as a whole only fails in three of the 36 indicators and two of them have to do with the low proportion of undergraduate and master’s students from other autonomous communities, and this is conditioned by their teaching in Catalan on many occasions. Also suspended in investigation section ―the prize in salary for scientific production, they have a huge percentage of teachers in a precarious situation― and in regional research funds. The lack of regional funding ―research groups apply to many national and European Union programs― is a problem in six of the 17 autonomous regions. The governments of Andalusia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community, Castilla-La Mancha and Navarra approve, and to spare in the Canary Islands, the Basque Country, Extremadura, Galicia and La Rioja.

Navarra, the Basque Country and Castilla y León are, in this order, the regions that host the universities with the best teaching, according to the data analyzed by the CYD Foundation. Navarra is also the first in research ―in proportion to its scale― and international orientation, but like the Basque Country, it fails in patents granted by professors, although not when the patents are in collaboration with companies. In the foral community is the University of Navarra, very strong in health sciences, the only Spanish private one that appears in the Shanghai research ranking; and the more recent and well-financed Public University of Navarra.

In knowledge transfer ―licenses, patents and collaborations with companies― Catalonia, Galicia, Navarra, the Basque Country and the Valencian Community lead the way, in this order. In the case of the research section (publications, external funds or postdocs) Galicia falls and Cantabria sneaks in.

When analyzing the contribution of the university to regional development, the Canary Islands rank first, whose Government -as shown by the indicator of regional research funds- supports their universities for research projects (although rectors complain about the total amount of their budgets). It is followed by the Basque Country ―its Executive also cares about private ones―, Catalonia and Aragon, which it approves for the minimum in financing.

Except for research, the Basque Country system ―made up of the private companies Deusto and Mondragón and the public company of the same name― appears among the best in three of the four major parameters. In its favor, it plays a solid link between the business world and education from FP, which has its mirror in doctorates and industrial degrees, which want to be exported to the rest of Spain. In these doctorates, Catalonia, which is home to six of the 11 universities with good indicators above 20, is a benchmark, but its Achilles heel is the regional funding of its scientific projects, an indicator that appears in red, as is the case in Asturias, Cantabria, Madrid and Murcia.

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