The number of first degrees on offer in Spain could be reduced by 40 per cent as part of the Bologna Process.
Proposals under consideration by the Ministry of Education include a reduction from 140 programmes to 82. The plans will be debated by a committee of eight experts before a final decision is taken this autumn. Universities will then have two years to design the content of the qualifications.
Enrolments have been dropping at Spanish universities since 2000 due to changes in population, but arts subjects have been worst affected. If the proposals are adopted, some disciplines would be merged into broader areas, while others could disappear altogether. Fourteen language degrees would be merged into four qualifications, and history of art would be absorbed into a more general degree in history. Degrees in regional languages such as Catalan and the multidisciplinary humanities qualification would disappear.
When the plans were leaked last April, arts students across the country protested.
Technical degrees are also in for a shake-up, dropping from 59 courses to 29. Three-year engineering diplomas would disappear and separate qualifications would be grouped in a broader single degree. All engineering degrees would last four years.
Changes to other areas such as hard sciences, social sciences, law, nursing and medicine would be less significant.
Francisco Michavila, the Unesco chair of university management at Madrid's Technical University, helped to draft the plans for technical degrees. He defines them as "a rationalisation with a large dose of continuity".
Rosa Nonell, vice-rector of academic affairs at Barcelona University, said rationalisation was overdue but argued that the process was taking place in the wrong order. "There is no point defining the product until you have defined the methodology."