Hard work and practical value add up to better graduates

April 19, 1996

Spanish universities are struggling to broaden their curricula. Rebecca Warden reports from Valencia where the country's rectors drew up their rescue plan and where staff and students at the city's university express their views on the situation .

While students at the University of Valencia are quick to criticise the new system, many also recognise the benefits.

Jose Vicente Llopis, 23, a third-year psychology student says: "You leave with a better training under this system than the old one. You have to work harder." He, like other students, also welcomes the introduction of practicals to complement conventional lectures on theory.

Nevertheless, all students complain of excessive workloads, pointing out that spending so many hours in classes leaves them little time to take in the information or engage in other forms of study.

Mar!a Gazapo, 22, also studying psychology, has signed up for 40 modules this year, the equivalent of 70 credits, and reckons she spends about 30 hours a week in lectures. Even so, she does not expect to complete her course in four years and thinks it could take five or even six.

Inma Juan, 21, another psychology student, complains that some course units are too short, sometimes completed in as little as two sessions over two weeks, and that some other modules have too little credit value.

"For attending five hours I get too much material for something which is just classified as a psychology practical," she says. She believes that things are improving for the following years as the extra strain now caused by teaching different intakes under the old and new plan eases. "In a way, we are the guinea pigs," she comments.

Too few places on optional subjects and endless timetable clashes are also frequent complaints. Marcelo Roger, 24, studying business studies at Valencia, remarks that whereas before you would sign up for the year as a single unit, now there are so many different subjects that "drawing up your timetable is a complete nightmare".

As one of the first students studying the new syllabus to go to France under the Erasmus programme, he had problems finding out which subjects studied abroad could be convalidated in Valencia, but puts some of this down to bad luck at being one of the first.

Nevertheless, he rates the French system as better organised and appreciated the opportunities to take specialised subjects at an early stage.

In general, none of the students wish to return to the old system, but they are keenly aware of the problems with the new one. "The ideas are very good, but it is badly organised," says psychology student Mariola Navarro, "there are too many hours and people just can't keep up."


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