Rectors fight Spanish reform

July 13, 2001

Amendments to the proposed reform of Spanish universities have failed to satisfy the country's rectors.

The government is proposing to  abolish the national entrance exam for students, allow universities to select their students and establish a national training exam for lecturers along the lines of the German system.

The bill, known as the Universities' Law, aims to update the legal framework, untouched since 1985.

It was presented to university leaders last month and should begin its passage through parliament in September.

But it is the law's focus on proposals to change management structures, giving more power to governors appointed by regional governments and industry representatives, that is most criticised.

Two thousand lecturers, researchers and students signed a protest document drawn up by the University of Valencia. The Spanish Rectors' Conference and the rectors of seven Catalan universities have added their voices to the protest.

The government has made concessions, reducing the power of political appointees on the main governing council, but increasing their powers on a second board, the social council.

The rectors said the changes represented "a political intervention that would seriously restrict the constitutional right to university autonomy".

Some university leaders fear this is a way of giving regional governments power by the back door. They point to the example of Valencia, where the regional government is bringing in a similar bill and has a long history of conflict with the state universities in its jurisdiction.

The Spanish government has a comfortable parliamentary majority so has no need to make pacts or concessions to push the bill through.

If it fails to reach a consensus with university leaders, it may be hard pressed to obtain their cooperation in introducing the changes.


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