March 3, 2024

Early on Friday, this newspaper summoned the two candidates who have reached the final stretch of the elections for rector at the Complutense University of Madrid―the veterinarian Joaquín Goyache (Pamplona, ​​1962), who holds the position, and Esther del Campo (Madrid, 1963), dean of Political Science― and the talk passed without any tension in the government pavilion. And that, just a few hours before, a piece of news had surprised the 77,993 people who make up the Complutense community: if Del Campo becomes the first rector in 200 years of history, the next three candidates with the most votes in the first round (they were a total of eight) will become its vice rectors. During the cordial meeting, Goyache, who came to the rectory in 2019 as a consensus candidate against rector Carlos Andradas, seemed to take it with sportsmanship.

The Complutense ranks several university degrees among the best in the world (Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine and Modern Languages), but it is going through a major reputational crisis due to the macho cries of the Elías Ahuja residence hall, the appointment as an illustrious student of the Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso or the contests that former vice president Pablo Iglesias has entered. Many reproach the rector for awarding Ayuso; Del Campo is already haunted by the shadow of Podemos, who was born in her faculty. Her agreement, among others, with the candidate Iñaqui López, a conservative, contrasts with the sectarian image that many media try to paint of her. “It is not an ideological pact, in any case, because that is one of the issues that could have been blamed on me,” Del Campo reasons.

Ask. How does the pact of four candidates change the board?

Joaquin Goyache. It was on paper. It was announced by a candidate who thought he was going to lead. He said that on March 23 -what a coincidence, it was yesterday (on Thursday)!-, a consensus pact was going to be made against Rector Goyache. He, who is a friend of yours and mine, told me literally. You would not be informed. It seems to me healthy, democratic, that there are pacts, but all is not lost. Not much less. I want to win the elections and we start from scratch in this second batch.

Esther del Campo, during the dialogue-interview last Friday.
Esther del Campo, during the dialogue-interview last Friday.Luis Sevillano

Esther del Campo. I was not aware of that, I have not participated in any distribution. I said throughout the campaign that I was going with a program and not with names, and that is essential. Program, program, program. The rector was the most voted in this first round, with 25% (of the weighted votes), and when a scenario with a lot of fragmentation is posed, there is also in the vote. Logically, the person in charge of the institution comes out with a complement, because he has a position, he is better known… It’s always like that. The diagnosis (of the university) is widely shared by the candidates, except for Joaquín, and it was made clear in the debate.

Q. You, dean, consider that there is a leadership problem.

E.D.C. There are several problems since always. Four years ago I told him: “Look Joaquín, I don’t know if you’re going to win or not, but I’m going to be the next chancellor.” He laughed, as he laughs now. He will not be a Frankenstein government. Because? Joaquín is also the fruit of a pact. I think the capacity that I have shown to generate consensus must be valued. It is not an ideological pact, in any case, because that is one of the issues that could have been blamed on me. A second round is beginning and we have to show that our project is more solid and see to what extent the university aspires to this change and to have the first rector of all time.

JG That will be decided on the 29th (Wednesday) by the Complutense community: whether to choose the first rector or continue with the best rector (laughter from both).

Q. Has the controversy over the appointment of Ayuso affected you, rector?

JG It has not been good for me at all, but it is independent. My career as rector or as a team is marked by that fact, but you have to judge what has been done.

Q. How to deal with the great reputation crisis?

JG Public universities are in a constant general crisis and especially the Complutense, which is the largest face-to-face. We are much better than we appear. It never comes out for the good, which occupies 99.9% of university life: the congresses that are held, the research, the magnificent teaching that is done from all areas… The good news, not other news. But hey, you have to work on your reputation.

Q. Carlos III University does not have these reputational problems.

JG It is an elite public university with a lot of marketing and it does not cover as many areas as the Complutense, which is very transversal. We have a communication plan and it needs to be effective.

E.D.C. Since the 2008 crisis there has been a decline in public services. There is still demand, but if you do not continue to invest in the public, the quality worsens, the number of patients or the number of university students is more numerous… There is a problem of how we are going to rebuild the public in this context. The Complutense is big; and that is a strength, because it is very rich in all kinds of disciplines and its relevance could be enormous; but, at the same time, it is a weakness, due to the complexity of establishing coordination and negotiation mechanisms between different sectors.

Whether or not there is a communication plan (a topic of discussion in the campaign), we need internal communication ―greater interdisciplinarity is needed, I have seen a great disconnect between experimental sciences, social sciences and humanities― and external; We have to have much more impact, but it is not strictly a question of putting out news, but rather having a strong social commitment that makes us relevant. That if you want to carry out a process of transformation of health services, consult the Complutense School of Medicine, because there you have many people who have worked in health policy.

Joaquín Goyache listens to Esther del Campo, during their face to face last Friday.
Joaquín Goyache listens to Esther del Campo, during their face to face last Friday.Luis Sevillano

Q. Madrid has 13 of the 40 private universities in Spain and some of dubious quality. Why do your rectors of the public lament so timidly?

JG La Cruma (conference of rectors of Madrid public universities) and other bodies such as the Madrid i+d Foundation (dependent on the regional Administration) or the Council of Universities constantly make negative reports; but they are stored in the drawer, because they are mandatory but not binding. We understand that many universities must fall in the coming years (due to the decree that requires them to meet quality criteria). At the beginning of the term, I tried to make Cruma a more regulated organization, but the proposal was rejected. It is true that you have to be more proactive.

E.D.C. The Cruma could have more relevance. I know that the regional context is complicated, but there is no public visibility. His weight is basically advisory, but you have to try to push, because the situation is worrying. A declaration a posteriori (a private letter to the counselor after the last approval of a university) in the face of an obvious threat does not have the impact of making a few indications before. You look for Cruma’s proposals, for example, public financing and you realize that they are practically non-existent.

JG We are still preparing the document with the Community of Madrid.

Q. Personnel expenses have risen by 50 million euros and Community financing by 20 million. How do the numbers match?

JG They don’t marry. I always give the example to the counselor (of Education of the Community of Madrid, Enrique) Ossorio: it is as if the mayor of Madrid paid 80% of the salary of the Municipal Police and the rest had to be covered with fines. We supplement this deficit with the public prices paid by students (registration fees). It’s not logical, because it’s to do projects for students, other things… But they say they don’t have money. We are negotiating all the rectors an increase in the nominative, either for objectives and investment plans. Clearly, we are good underfunded universities, the penultimate community after the Balearic Islands. The Community of Madrid always cheats you: they say they invest a lot because instead of looking at the GDP they look at the budget and since it is very low…

E.D.C. The university has been lagging behind in infrastructure and we have to develop some type of financing by multi-year objectives. A combination of teaching, research and knowledge transfer, because we cannot go to a completely research model. When I got out of the metro, a cyclist passed by, advanced 50 meters and came back. He tells me: “You are the candidate, right? I have to tell you that the lane has no continuation, it reaches the sidewalk, but of course, since it belongs to the Consorcio (of Transport), we have a problem. And also, it has potholes ”. It’s true, there are three campuses that need a lot of investment.

JG To comply with the ITES (Technical Building Inspection) we would need about 1,200 million. We have one million square meters built, the second largest civil building in Madrid – the Faculty of Medicine – and it has not been invested for many years. They are essential issues of signage, security…, because they don’t have money… The one who doesn’t have money is the Complutense!

Q. What is going to happen now that the money earned in sentences in the Supreme Court for infrastructures ends? (Esperanza Aguirre failed to comply with the plan and stopped paying 574 million to the six public universities).

JG We have all 2024 and the execution can be extended. It has served to cover the needs of the building of the Faculty of Economics and Business, which is twenty-odd years behind schedule.

E.D.C. One thing that also needs to be improved is the issue of European resilience funds. Due to our size, the excessive bureaucracy and the excessive guarantee… we are a bit like an elephant in a china shop.

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