The Spanish university system still faces many outstanding challenges. The modernization of the university seems to be a goal for all parties involved, but its achievement is not an easy task. On April 12, the new Basic Law of the University System (LOSU) entered into force in Spain, which contains a series of novelties in the field of governance and academic function that affect the activity of these institutions, although they seem insufficient. to address the root problems. Sources from CRUE Universidades Españolas state that the Spanish centers, since the Universities Reform Act (LRU), have a system of governance similar to that of most universities in Europe. “This is known as Academic studentwhere the involvement of the academic community has significant weight,” they explain.
In recent years, a trend towards reducing the number and size of academic structures and the search for more efficient and speedy decision-making processes has been observed in a large part of European university systems, “yes, while maintaining academic engagement”, they are eligible This is the case of Denmark, Finland, Portugal or France , which are the countries in which the university proposes half of the external members. “This ensures that people who are familiar with university activity and its dynamics are selected,” they noted from CRUE.
The Spanish Chamber of Commerce, the Congress of Social Councils of Spanish Universities and the CYD Foundation have promoted a study on governance reforms in European university systems in several countries. «The reforms, with the exception of France, coincided with a change in governance in public universities that greatly increased external clients in government agencies. The brigadier general was recruited through an open international competition and, once selected, followed the strategic lines laid out.” Francesc SouleVice President of the CYD Foundation, who was surprised that we are still “in a system of governance that is atypical and contrary to the laws of the ‘administration'”.
Scarcity of economic means is another problem that our university system suffers from. From CRUE they assert that with the resources currently being transferred to universities, they could not be more efficient. “With much lower budgets, the State University (SUE) system has universities in the same location as European universities with double and triple resources. What needs to be done is the correct implementation of what the LOSU refers to and raising the financing of public enterprises to a minimum of 1% of GDP, this entity stands out. He also believes that it is very important that “the university be protected from adverse economic cycles and not repeat the mistake of previous crises, in which funding was cut where it was most needed, which is the research and innovation that universities are doing,” in other fields. faces.
For its part, CYD notes that in order to have more resources, organizations generally strive to be more efficient, reduce unnecessary costs and try to increase income by ensuring that associated costs are lower than high income. “When there are opportunities and internal resources are not enough, external funding is used. The university generally follows the same logic,” Qualified. Public institutions, however, have greater inertia to be more efficient. “Their research groups get funding from projects and sometimes from outsourcing their tasks and organization. It is not easy to obtain transfer utilization, valuation and income from scientific parks, especially with the shortcomings of natural management. Increasing tuition fees is also a resource. The last resource is to demand a larger public contribution,” points out Francesc Soule.
He begins by noting that “good management needs greater professionalism” Manuel Paras, former Rector of Jaén University and Director of Postgraduate Diploma in University Policy and Management, which is now in its second edition. Based on his experience, he asserts that vice-chancellors come to his position from very diverse fields, without knowledge of the dynamics of the process and above all “with no cross-sight”. Hence, this course attempts to change the situation and train the various professionals who work in the university, occupying positions in the administration, the rectorate of the university or the social council, among others. Remember that the university has its own characteristics, “it cannot be compared to a commercial company but it does include some of its elements, such as seeing the return invested by the citizens.” They chose a college model that anyone could get into and “also chose a model to expand into many areas”. However, he acknowledges that it is a system that can be improved, among other reasons because “the budget must be optimized for financial sufficiency and in R+D+i”. In his opinion, the first task of the university is to educate the educated, and this has been forgotten. You have to tell the community why we want more funding, what is our duty.
Julio Fernandez, Rector of the University of Cordoba (UCO), highlights that the current functions and future challenges of the university must be based on the most appropriate management of its resources. “The management needs that the university currently requires professional profiles are based on the acquisition of general and specific skills that allow for diversified work in different scenarios, with the ability to work collaboratively in a team, with increased availability for decision-making and leadership,” explains Fernandez. All this includes a clear definition of functions and powers.
The lack of autonomy is one of the biggest brakes on the Spanish university system when it comes to attracting talent. “There is no labyrinth of contracting and accreditation outside Spain, and it is very difficult for foreign researchers to convince them to come to work in Spain with less salaries and resources than they have, in general, in their university systems. We need more flexibility in hiring and more funding to offer attractive bonuses,” CRUE sources say.
Manuel Barras also considers the lack of generational change in the teaching staff to be one of the weaknesses of the system. “The number of traditional students is declining, the birth rate is declining and it is an opportunity to develop permanent training, the so-called small qualifications,” explains the former rector of the university. “Many professors will retire and many positions will not be filled because they are fields of knowledge in which they have regressed. Public administrations must understand that universities are not only for teaching, they must demand more jobs to be done. And the departments must fund the recruitment of new teachers,” he stresses. In addition, he realizes that “a college career is one constant obstacle” and does not know if it will improve in the short term with the changes LOSU is making in this regard. In his opinion, «the merits of professors are closely related to publications and are far from the merits of students. You should change it, investigate better, and publish too. And then transferred to the university.
Universities have been working in areas such as internationalization and digitization for years. In the latter case, “the recent pandemic has accelerated the adaptation and transformation of the vast majority of the operations carried out by the University, both in teaching and in projection as well as in research and transmission,” highlights the UCO Director. In the case of internationalization, “the University as a whole cannot be conceived without its international vocation, embodied in the mobility of students, faculty and technical staff, in collaboration in research and innovation with other countries, and, emphatically, in a global commitment to knowledge and sustainable development.”
With regard to improving the transfer of knowledge from the laboratories to the community, Francesc Soule considers that the priority “is to improve the laboratories and make them more self-sufficient and administratively capable. To improve the organization and objectives of the university services for transfer and valorization ». With the productive fabric and with the whole public and private research system, for example, with the mobility of researchers, long term plans for joint investigations, internationalization of relations etc. “Transport resources should go in the direction of service to their principal agents,” Sully stresses.
As the CYD Foundation Vice President points out, universities have an essential tool to achieve these ends: their autonomy. “Guaranteing it within the framework of sustainable public funding is a basic requirement for them to perform their functions as tools for knowledge generation, training, innovation and development; and so that they can continue to bet on carrying out their functions of responsibility, training, permanent evaluation and re-evaluation of their human capital.”