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The red lines of the rectors to the 'Castells law': neither fixed places for associates nor tenured professors governing

Inicio de este curso académico en la Universidad de Córdoba con presencia del presidente de los rectores, el Rey y el ministro Manuel Castells.  20/09/2021
Start of this academic year at the University of Córdoba with the presence of the president of the rectors, the King and Minister Manuel Castells. 20 / 09 / 2021 Enrique Gómez / Europe Press

The preliminary draft of the LOSU (Organic Law of the University System) enters a new phase of negotiation after passing the text by the Council of Ministers earlier than expected. Minister Manuel Castells, aware that the part of the government of the universities – referred to as governance – does not convince any group, will present a new proposal in the coming weeks. They will have until the end of November to negotiate and then the parliamentary process will begin. These are the proposals of the conference of rectors (CRUE), which has drawn several red lines in the document. The spirits are somewhat heated, since the Coordinator of Representatives of Students of Public Universities (Creup) has blamed the ministry in a statement of having “negotiated and agreed” the law with the rectors.

Personal

Associates. The rectors refuse that the 15% of vacancies at the university have to be filled by associate professors doctors. “Why reserve associates and not visiting professors? Let them show up ”, says a rector. “A legal reservation for access to public employment must be justified in objective elements of discrimination or in the existence of differentiated specific merits, something that does not happen in this case,” maintains the CRUE in its allegations. The category of associates was created in the early eighties so that prominent professionals could bring their experience to the university, but it has become a cheap alternative – they have been charging since 300 euros— and false, because in many cases the teacher has no other occupation and spends hours working for free to write a curriculum.

This week, Isabel de la Cruz, spokesperson for the Associate Teaching Staff Platform, was happy: “The ministry always told us no you could set percentages and it was possible ”. Today there are one in four teachers in the public and the draft requires that in five years there will be no more than 20% of templates. The rectors think that it is too ambitious: “It seems that it has been established with a realistic estimate of the financial resources required and the limitations of the replacement rate. ”

The indefinite and parallel race . The rectors are not uncomfortable with the existence of non-civil servants, as it would allow faster access to professionals they consider valuable, but they dislike the fact that the figure ―which exists in Catalonia and the Basque Country― “seems to remain in the hands of the autonomous communities in function of their competences ”. They warn about their possible access to professors – “internal promotion is only possible from an official body” – and are concerned that “there are differences in dedication and remuneration [con los funcionarios] that would not be justified by objective elements.” These distinctions would be marked by the autonomous governments.

Teaching load . The ministry wants teachers to focus not only their careers on research – which now allows them to progress – but on teaching, forcing them to teach between 120 and 240 hours of class per year; and the rectors claim that there is only a maximum of hours. With the current wording, a rector or department director would have to teach at least 120, what they say “reflects a lack of knowledge of the dedication that these charges entail.” In addition, they want exceptions so that renowned figures come in practice only to investigate, such as the two Nobel prizes that the University of the Basque Country has.

Selection commissions. They share that the courts for a contest for a permanent position are less endogamous – due to their composition it is very difficult for someone from outside to win – but they ask that they are not like this – they force to bring external – for non-permanent positions “given that the high hiring volume could block the contest system. ”

Assistant professors. To be this figure you will have to be a doctor and the draft plans that they do not have to be accredited in the agency of ANECA evaluation when those who already practice read the thesis, but the rectors want to leave the path like this if “the universities deem it appropriate.”

Assessment I3 . The rectors want any doctor with certain scientific merits to be able to apply for this accreditation, which is now limited to those who have enjoyed a Ramón y Cajal contract, which is very competitive. For them at least one 15% of public employment places. And they warn: “Making the optional quota would be an unprecedented brake on the recruitment of talent in the university.”

Internationalization

The CRUE wants universities to be able to reserve places for foreigners in certain studies and it proposes that the university entrance exam for them – which had been removed and this course was re-established – can be replaced by the one approved in “international standardized tests of prestige and verifiable academic rigor”. In addition, they suggest giving campuses the option of taking internal tests of knowledge of the language and basic subjects.

University government

The rector’s office in the hands of the professors. They refuse to allow a tenured professor with credited merits to stand for rector elections. This article of the draft is a proposal by the socialists ―divided on this issue―, who seek in this way to make room for women at the top, since the female professors are a minority, they hold few positions of power. At this moment there are nine principals out of a total of 50 rectors in the public university. The rectors argue that “although the holder could not appear for accreditation or competition, during the mandate, he would have to be evaluated later in his future promotion to professor by colleagues from the university itself and from outside (there may be a conflict of interest and generate an image doubtful for the institution) ”.

Rector for six years. They agree with the maximum duration of the rectors’ mandates proposed by the regulations ―many times the rectors leave their most controversial plans for the second cycle for fear of not being re-elected – but they propose that they cannot run again: “six years non-renewable and non-renewable.”

Female positions. The rectors believe that should be favored to women so that in all collegiate bodies “the principle of balanced composition between women and men” governs, but that parity cannot be mandatory, because in some fields of knowledge there are few female teachers.

A smaller Governing Council. The preliminary draft maintains the figure of 50 members representing all levels of the university community and the CRUE would lower it to 30 to make it a more agile decision-making body. The rectors suggest they elect a third of the council. They agree that the cloisters do not exceed the negotiations is now being considered to leave it in a range between 80 and 150 cloistered. Now there is up to 300. In northern Europe these bodies are much smaller and with the participation of outsiders.

Committee to elect rector. The new norm proposes an alternative system to that of elections to elect rector, but the CRUE is not convinced. It would be a group of 20 and 30 people ―a . (In the event that the university changes its statutes, it is not mandatory). “It would have made more sense if the conditions and composition to set up a committee of this type had been left entirely in the hands of the university,” argues the CRUE.

Appointment of deans and department directors. The draft allows the rector to choose these positions from among three candidates proposed by the faculty council. Instead, the rectors propose to select after hearing the Governing Council.

Estudiantes en el campus de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.
Students on the campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. CRISTÓBAL CASTRO / EL PAÍS

A more diverse Social Council . The rectors want to be able to suggest personalities from outside the university, as in Europe, for this body that has to build bridges between society and the company and audit the accounts. Now the president of the council is elected by the regional government and works like savings banks. In the preliminary draft it is proposed that this position be chosen, not by hand, and the rectors propose that the mandate be for six non-renewable years.

The role of private companies. The rectors ugly the minister who forgets the private universities, “especially in the explanatory statement”, by implying that the public ones are “the totality of the Spanish University System ”. They claim that if the private companies are going to abstain from voting on issues that only concern the public, the same thing happens in the opposite direction. The preliminary draft dedicates a very small space to private ones and many have felt neglected.

The brake on bad universities. Now, the General Council of University Policy, in the one that all the campuses, the regional governments and the ministry are present, issues a technical report on the quality of a university project that is mandatory, but not binding and the communities – as happened in Cantabria – can skip it. The rectors ask that the evaluation have to be positive.

The independence of the campuses. The rectors consider that the draft legislates too much and interferes with university autonomy. In the text there are several complaints, for example, the one relative to the creation of institutes of permanent formation ”. In the opinion of the rectors, “it seems more appropriate for it to remain within the scope of each university, depending on its own profile.”

Recognition of the Higher FP . Currently, each university validates a student’s Higher FP studies as they want, which creates a great disparity in evaluations. The rectors want the Ministry of Universities to get involved in the process “with the recognition of credits”, in line with the Ministry of Education.

Major colleges. They believe it is “doubtful legality” that these student residences can only be promoted and managed by non-profit organizations.

Financing tion

Budgets. The Government’s claim is that investment in university reaches 1% of GDP in 10 years and the rectors argue that “the realization of these objectives must be linked to the increase of public spending and scheduled accordingly with the increase in real investment ”. Because, if not, they argue that it is unlikely that the precariousness on campuses will end in five years.

Autonomy in science. They propose that the part of the budget earmarked for research be exempted from prior control and subjected to a subsequent audit. Bureaucratic hurdles greatly hinder the work of scientists who want to be accountable later.

Salary supplements. The rectors wish to be able to give bonuses to their staff if it is approved by the Governing Council and its Social Council.

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