The university community has been surprised and rejected by the reform of the university system that the Government presented on Tuesday. The main criticism made by trade union and student associations and estates such as the Observatory of the University System (OSU) of Catalonia points to, they say, the reduction of internal democracy that the norm implies. Associate professors, one of the groups that most waited for the standard to improve their situation, have not been satisfied with the proposal either.
The degradation of the status of the university professor in Spain
CCOO speaks of a “presidential and managerial model around the figure of the rector”, CREUP, the main student association, criticizes the “reduction of student rights” and reduction of their participation, and the OSU refers to “a certain tendency to a certain more hierarchical functioning, from top to bottom “.
There is also rejection of certain specific measures among the changes to mitigate the precariousness of a large part of the teaching staff, such as that there is no obligation for some part of the competitions for the places to be public, or that a specific figure is created, the Distinguished teachers, that bypass selection processes and can be handpicked.
The platform of the PDI (research teaching staff, university teachers and researchers) of associate professors, those who have the worst working conditions but who have been pulling the universities in times of crisis as cheap labor perverting the law, regrets that they are continue to consider “an appendix teaching staff, apart from the rest of the university”, and that as its figure is defined “it allows the autonomous communities to maintain the precariousness of the salary of these personnel”.
A new model of Government
The biggest surprise among the sources consulted has been the new model of university government proposed by the preliminary draft of the Organic Law of the Spanish University System (LOSU) presented yesterday by Minister Castells, in part perhaps because it is an element on which no had leaked no news and has caught many with the changed foot.
And the law brings news in this field. For example, the role of the cloisters, the participation body of the university community in the campuses, is changed. The ministry ensures in the law itself that “university autonomy is reinforced” and at the same time “measures are adopted to ensure efficient and effective management within the university.”
Thus, the cloisters will reduce their composition to a maximum of 100 people (now it is 300). The door is also opened to a change in the rector’s election system: universities will be able to choose between the current weighted universal suffrage and a committee chosen by the cloister (with proportional representation of the different estates) that will be the one that designates the president, no choices. The university cloister has gone from being in 1983 in the LRU “the body to which the approval of the general lines of the university will correspond” to “the highest representative body of the university community” in 2001, and to the “consultative representative body and participation of the university community “in the draft presented this Tuesday. The Governing Council has followed the reverse path: from “governing body” to “highest governing body”.
The changes also include an extension of terms from four to six years, but it will not be renewable. The rector will have more power because it becomes his responsibility to elect the deans – until now it was also done by direct universal suffrage. There are also news for the Governing Council, the body that actually makes decisions in the universities, which must now have at least 10% representatives of the Social Council, the body of participation of the social, political and economic agents on the campuses .
It is curious that a further effort is made against inbreeding, fraud or cronyism, and at the same time a figure of a teacher is created who does not have to pass a contest
– Director of the Observatory of the University System
“Together we have a faculty that is reduced and does not regain the powers it lost in 2001 with the LOU; a Governing Council in which more Social Council is involved and a rector who can appoint deans, who will no longer be elected by the faculties “, summarizes Vera Sacristán, director of the OSU and former professor of Applied Mathematics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC). “Except for the formulation and approval of the statutes, its functions and powers are reduced to those of a merely consultative body,” agrees CCOO.
“It will mean a reduction in student rights, in turn being significantly reduced in their participation in internal university democracy, limited by their participation in the rector elections,” CANAE students add.
Regarding the change in the requirements to be rector (in the current law it is required to be a professor, the LOSU proposes to replace it with academic and management requirements), the people and entities consulted consider it practically “irrelevant” compared to the previous changes. There is more division of opinions with the rise to six years of the rector’s mandate, accompanied by the impossibility of renewing (before it was four years and a maximum of two terms). CANAE students believe that “it seriously harms internal democracy”, while Sacristán, from the OSU, sees it as “consistent” with “the idea of greater hierarchy”, but values that “in this way [sabiendo que solo tiene un mandato] the person in charge will not feel conditioned by his possible re-election when making decisions, and four years is not enough. ”
Associate, Distinguished and Visiting Faculty
The LOSU draft also incorporates news (and absences) regarding the recruitment of teaching staff by the universities and how the competitions should be for the places called.
The reduction of the maximum number of temporary workers on the staff of a university from the current 40% – which is not even met – to 20% is generally considered positive, although the UGT considers it still scarce due to “inconsistency with the norms that are currently governing stabilization of public employees “.
At the level of recruitment figures, the greatest novelty could be the appearance of two types of new contracts, Substitute Professors and Distinguished Professors, explains Sacristán. The former already exist in some communities, the real novelty is the latter.
And it has been, at least for the USO, an unpleasant surprise. “It is not compulsory to pass a contest, you can hire it by finger,” explains this former teacher. “It is striking, because on the other hand, in the standard figures of the teaching staff (head and professor civil servants plus the corresponding work equivalents, plus that of assistant doctor) it is a question of objectifying more the competitions to access,” he elaborates, and explains that the The project presents changes in the composition of the commissions that judge these contests, such as putting a majority of members from outside the university or choosing them by lottery. “It is curious that a further effort is made against inbreeding, fraud or cronyism, and at the same time a figure of a teacher is created that does not have to pass a contest.”
The figure, similar to this previous one, of the Visiting professor is also maintained, which is also discretionary, although it reduces the maximum duration of the contracts to one year compared to the current two.
Finally, in terms of figures, there is the situation of associate professors. The associated PDI Platform “negatively values” the LOSU draft. The law proposes to reserve 15% of the vacancies that are coming out for those with a doctorate and five years of working relationship with their university. Those who do not have the thesis read will be able to access contracts of Non-Doctor Contracted Professor. “It leaves open an imaginary line of promotion to figures and mechanisms yet to be defined in the communities: ‘From precariousness to precariousness or to the street,'” they write in a press release.
“The associated PDI has been the mainstay of the public university in the last 20 years and cannot be fired with a single stroke of the pen,” the platform warns. “Stabilization mechanisms must be guaranteed in the law,” they claim.
Advertising in contests?
Finally, Sacristán brings up an aspect perhaps less mediatic, but that worries him: the configuration of the competitions for the entrances to the squares. Normally, in these competitions, each candidate is presented with their background, their merits, experience, their future projects and how they see the subjects or research for which they choose. This information is submitted in writing and is evaluated by the commission.
“But public presentations are also made,” Sacristán clarifies, “which allow us to observe two things: to know how that person expresses himself, how he responds to the questions that are asked, and allows the publicity of the act, which is public. That there are witnesses and transparency “.
And this is not clear in this draft, according to the USO. “A law has to guarantee not only what it guarantees (the transparency of the commissions that judge, the raffles of their members, etc.), but also the transparency of the process, and for that there must be publicity in the act of “Examine” the person. The law should make it explicit that the contest for access to a PDI position must have a public part with presentation and interaction between the commission and candidates. ANECA already does it by looking at papers, “he concludes, quoting the agency that accredits the faculty.