Sunday, January 29

Congress will approve this Thursday the new university law, which prohibits raising the price of fees

The new Law on Universities (LOSU) is ready to be approved. After the final debate on the norm in Congress that took place this Wednesday, the Ministry of Universities is “optimistic” with obtaining the necessary support so that the Plenary approves in tomorrow’s vote the text that will replace 20 years later to the Organic Law of Universities. The usual partners of the Government have supported the project – with more or less criticism – while the right and the parties further to the left reject it.

Joan Subirats: “Madrid and Catalonia are the communities that invest the least in universities, and it shows”


If the vote goes ahead definitively, the norm will thus go to the Senate, which will still be able to introduce more modifications to a document that has been widely amended in the Lower House with novelties such as prohibiting studies from becoming more expensive or opening the possibility that labor personnel be rector. Minister Joan Subirats calculated a few days ago that “if all goes well” the new standard could be ready by February.

The Ministry is optimistic, but the parliamentary arithmetic is not closed. The debate has served to know that PSOE, UP, ERC, PNV, Más País-Equo and the PdCat will support the norm, while PP, Vox, CUP, Junts and BNG have been against it. Bildu will abstain.

In any case, as it is an organic law, its approval requires an absolute majority in favour, so it depends more on the yeses obtained than on whether those who are not going to vote in favor opt for “no” or abstain. With the votes of the parties that have announced their “yes” in principle, they should be enough for the text to be approved (they add up to 181 and the absolute majority is 176).

Minister Subirats stressed that it “recognizes the diversity of the university system, democratizes access, guarantees quality standards in teaching, research and transfer” and will limit temporality, among other issues. Among the parties that support it, arguments have been heard such as that the standard “represents an improvement over the previous one” (ERC) or that it presents “significant advances and does not prevent the regulatory development that our university systems require to advance (PNV). The PSOE has stressed that LOSU means going for “more quality and with better labor rights”.

From the parties located furthest to the left of Congress, which have anticipated that they will vote against, it has been criticized that the law is “insufficient and inadequate and serves to promote privatization in various ways”, such as equalizing rights for public and private universities , but not obligations (BNG), or the lack of an economic report that guarantees the proposed improvement in the working conditions of associate professors (CUP). The PRC will also vote against it, very critical of the fact that “most of the amendments [aprobadas durante el trámite parlamentario] they are concessions to their investment partners.”

From the other –ideological– side of the Chamber, the PP has lamented that the law “is not by consensus” and has described the law as a “paradox”. “It is the anti-university system law”, has maintained the popular deputy María Jesús Moro: “It is the ERC law”, she has stressed.

Among the latest developments incorporated into the law is the prohibition of raising university fees in the future: they can only be maintained or lowered, following the line of the agreement reached more than two years ago between the Government and the autonomous communities. In addition, the LOSU intends to end or at least alleviate the teaching precariousness that plagues the University -especially in terms of associate professors-, forces the majority of the staff to be civil servants, establishes positive discrimination measures to favor the access of women to places (also for men, if they are in a minority in a specific department), the aim is to increase teaching quality, improve the financing of centers in a stable manner by setting a minimum investment of 1% of GDP or modify the requirements for be rector, among other measures, eliminating requirements such as being a professor or opening the position to labor personnel (until now you had to be a civil servant), although some groups have criticized that this opening has not reached other positions, such as Secretary General.

During its parliamentary process, the bill has incorporated proposals such as that non-civil servants can be rectors; cap the price of university fees – they can only be maintained or lowered – and that private residence halls that segregate by sex cannot be attached to a public university to avoid macho scenes such as those of the Elías Ahuja school in Madrid, among other issues.

Also included in the new standard are some of the measures that the Ministry of Universities has been approving throughout this year, such as updating the minimum requirements for a center to be considered a university –thinking above all about the private sector– or the increase in the allocation for scholarships.

In addition, the new law enshrines academic unemployment for the first time, with which students cannot be punished in case of not attending class or an exam for that reason, it lowers the temporary period to 8% and civil servants must go from the current 51 % to 55%.