Protest at Spanish Dearing

March 31, 2000

Spain's version of the Dearing report was launched last week to student protests in Barcelona against the "creeping privatisation" of higher education.

Report author Josep Maria Bricall played down the opposition, quipping that the rally, which ended in violence at an education fair, was as surreal as the work of Catalan artist Salvador Dali.

The findings of Professor Bricall's report, University 2000, point to reforms in student finance, course structure, lecturer status, quality, accountability and state funding.

But the 500-page document deliberately has no conclusion. "It only contains recommendations because otherwise it might end up as just talk, something we are all too used to in Spain," said Professor Bricall, former head of the European Conference of Rectors and of Barcelona University.

Government representatives and rectors will discuss the report at a special meeting on April 3.

In December 1998, the Spanish Rectors' Conference asked Professor Bricall to coordinate the report. The conference's president, Saturnino de la Plaza, was keen to stress that the document is intended only to kick-start the reform process, not to impose change.

The report recommends:

The number of student grants should be doubled, and a student loans system should be phased in

The average grant of E1,352 (Pounds 824) should be raised to E2,404 (Pounds 1,465)

Student loans should be made available to students in their final year of study and should be repayable only once graduate income has reached the national average

Parental income should outweigh academic performance as the main criterion for access to grants and loans

Funding must increase over ten years from 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product to 1.5 per cent of GDP or more, in order to bring Spain in line with other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Most of the extra money should be provided from state funds

The ratio of state funding to private funding should change from 76:24 to 80:20

Tuition fees, which typically contribute 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of a degree, should remain constant.

The report favours greater modularisaton of degree courses. Other suggestions include giving all teaching staff tutoring responsibilities, making it easier for students to transfer from one degree to another and shortening the duration as appropriate.

Professor Bricall's report recommends more flexible employment contracts for academics, including contract lecturers and contract researchers. At present, Spanish academics either enjoy tenure for life as civil servants or have no job security as "trainee" lecturers.

The document also calls for a guaranteed sabbatical year for academics as well as more mobility for those lecturers who wish to work in different areas of Spain and abroad.

The report said that staff appointment procedures should be tightened up

Management structures should be slimmed down in the name of efficiency and quicker decision-making, although the report says the present system, whereby rectors are elected by staff and students, should stay.

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