Monday, September 20

The Government takes the first step to approve the law that seeks to end the precariousness of university professors

For the third university law. The Council of Ministers approved this Tuesday the preliminary draft of the Organic Law of the Spanish University System (LOSU), a norm with which the minister, Manuel Castells, intends to renew the University 20 years after the last law and that focuses, as he explained the minister, Manuel Castells, in improving the quality of the centers, the employment situation of the teaching staff – one of the great problems on campus due to precariousness, after having tried to do so through a specific rule that was rejected over and over again by the university community–, and other aspects such as the improvement of equity, access, the rights of students or the system of election of the rector, which will cease to be an exclusive position for professors and will become one due to labor merits.

The text, which will probably become known as the Castells law, still has a good parliamentary journey ahead of it before becoming a legal reality. After the approval of this Tuesday, the law goes to public consultation and from there it will go to Parliament with all its procedures. To get it done, the government will have to convince some of its usual supporters in Congress.

The Ministry of Universities recognizes in the press release issued after the Council of Ministers that “budgetary limitations and replacement rates (…) have caused situations of precariousness, excessive aging of the workforce and other dysfunctions that, together, they have increased social inequalities and put the sustainability, equal access and quality of the university system at risk “.

Some news, others not so much

Several of the news that the minister has presented during the press conference are not such. Castells has started by referring to the “improvement of quality” of universities, an aspect that is already included in a Royal Decree for the creation of universities that has already been published in the BOE for months. Another leg of the new law, “the link with the economy and employment”, was presented at the time in the Vocational Training (FP) law, which is a few weeks ahead of it in the parliamentary process.

One of the main novelties included in the law is the ministry’s attempt to “end the precariousness of the PDI”, as assessed by Castells. To this end, in addition to some provisions regarding the proportion of employees and contracted staff members –which is already included in the decree for the creation of centers–, one of the main changes comes from the fact that the selection commissions that grant the positions called will have a majority of non-university personnel, a measure that Castells intends to end the usual practice of granting these places mostly to people of the house (More than 70% of university professors work at the same university where they obtained their doctorate).

Castells also wants to address the situation of associate teachers, the most precarious of the figures, totally disfigured with respect to what is expected of them, and the one that has grown the most in recent years as a result of the fall in funding for the centers. For them, the minister explained, 15% of the places summoned will be reserved for those who have a five-year relationship with their university. But only for doctors. For non-doctors, the figure of the Non-Doctor Contracted Professor is created, for people who have also had this five-year relationship with their center but do not have a doctorate.

The preliminary draft establishes three types of university teaching staff, with which it is intended to simplify the panoply of contracts that now exists: there will be assistant doctor, holder and professor. As explained by Castells, an equivalent and parallel career will also be created for non-civil servants. In addition, a maximum temporality of 20% is established for Research Teaching Personnel (PDI, the bulk of university teaching staff, so far it can be 40% and on average it is above) and the possibility is established that doctoral students (who are preparing their thesis) have temporary contracts, limited to three years, while they finish their thesis.

The novelties also reach the management of the universities. One of the most striking is that Universities intend to end the requirement that to be rector it is necessary to be a professor, as is the case now. “It will be a civil servant or civil servant, but instead of rank the academic merits will count in the management capacity,” the minister explained. That is, any professor who is a civil servant, has three six-year research periods, three five-year teaching periods and who also “has held management positions in the direction of the university, departments, deans or vice-rectories for at least four years” will be able to opt for the maximum position university, which will last six years. The new law will also allow universities to maintain the current election model or create an election committee to direct the process.

Improve equity

“The new LOSU incorporates different measures that emphasize that equity, both for reasons of gender and for other reasons,” explains Universidades in its note. To do this, parity between men and women will be sought in collegiate bodies, equality plans, protocols against harassment or a salary record to avoid the gender gap, as reflected in the statement and explained by the minister. Several of these measures are already mandatory for the centers, in the absence of new details that may appear in the text.

Castells also dedicated a minute to the student body, which he described as “the reason for the existence of the University.” He recalled that Universities and Education have changed the scholarship model so that it reaches more people, the maximum prices of university fees have been limited and now their participation in the governing bodies of the centers will increase.

A battery of measurements

As mentioned, this standard It is complemented by others, such as the one that will modify the FP or the Royal Decree for the creation of universities, approved a few months ago by the Government. This rule replaces the previous one, approved by former Minister José Ignacio Wert in 2015, and basically toughens the requirements to create new centers and also to maintain existing ones, since it is retroactive. This update responds to the concern in the ministry about the proliferation of low-quality universities, as explained by those responsible at the time, more focused on business than on academia.

The new RD aims for public and private universities to have more academic offerings, more undergraduate students (as opposed to master’s degrees, which are more economically beneficial), more doctors and fewer temporary staff and that they investigate more (most of the private hardly dedicates funds to this). A study by the Observatory of the University System of Catalonia established that only 12 of the 81 universities it evaluated (in Spain there are currently 88) currently meet the requirements established by this decree. It remains to be seen if Universities apply to enforce it, since at this time only 18 of those same 81 meet the (few) conditions imposed by the decree in force until a few months ago and had no consequences.

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