Atlantic project crossed

July 18, 1997

Private universities are labouring against opposition, reports Rebecca Warden from Barcelona

A PROJECT to launch the first private university in Galicia, in Spain's northwest, has been given the thumbsdown by top advisory body, the University Council.

The council's report, commissioned by the regional government, has found that the blueprint for the University of the Atlantic has academic, economic and structural deficiencies. It is now up to the council to decide whether or not to act on the report's recommendations.

The university's promoters, headed by local businessman Fernando Marcote, are confident the project will see the light of day. The university hopes to take on its first 1,000 students in October 1998 on a purpose-built site in Ponteareas, near Pontevedra.

The fact that 450 Galician students enrol every year at the private University of Navarra some 750 kilometres distant is proof for Atlantic spokesman Manuel Suarez of the need for private university provision in Galicia.

"The region is losing its human and cultural resources, as well as potential investment," he says. Mr Suarez points to proposed innovations, such as compulsory training in languages and computing for all students and work placements from the first year of study, as some of the most positive aspects of the project.

Local people are less convinced. For Roberto Mera, spokesman of the Galician National Block party in Ponteareas, the project has "neither solvency nor solidity". He questions the fact that the Atlantic University's founding company has a registered capital of only 10 million pesetas (Pounds 40 million) for a project budgeted to cost over 3,000 million pesetas and points out that all the company owners are Marcote family members. He is highly critical of a deal between the university and the local council offering low land prices, tax exemption for life and planning permission to build old people's homes, a clinic and tourist developments as well as university buildings on the Ponteareas site.

The state University of Vigo, which has a campus in Pontevedra, maintains a careful neutrality. "Competition is always welcome," says rector Jose Antonio Rodriguez, "so long as quality can be guaranteed". The council was not available for comment.

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