The Council of Ministers approved this Friday, through a royal decree, a controversial reform of the university system with the aim of “flexibilizing” the degree structure in the Spanish university and bringing it closer to the prevailing model in Europe.
The new system will look more like the one that exists in most European countries, but students, teachers and trade unions fear that its implementation will mean, in the end, a more chaotic and, above all, more expensive university.
Spanish university fees are already among the highest in the continent: university degrees are the eighth most expensive in the European Union, and master’s degrees, the seventh most expensive, according to the report Study in Europe: tuition fees and scholarships in European universities, prepared by the Observatory of the University System and published in 2012.
Since the implementation of the Bologna Plan in Spain, just four years ago, all university degrees , with some specific exceptions, such as Medicine, have the same structure that totals 300 credits, and that is divided into four years of degree (240 credits) and one, optional, of a master’s degree (60 credits). The formula is known as 4 + 1. In most of Europe, however, the system is different, with an option of three years of degree and two of masters (3 + 2) .
The new royal decree allows universities to freely choose the formula they prefer. What the new royal decree allows is that Spanish universities can freely choose the formula they prefer: 4 + 1, 3 + 2 or anyone who adds 300 credits.
However, not in all cases in which the degrees are reduced to three years the masters will become two. A fork is established that goes from 180 to 240 credits in the degrees, and, as a minimum, all the contents that form part of the basic competences defined for each of the academic itineraries must be taught.
The reform supposes an important correction of the option chosen at the time by Spain to apply the Bologna Plan. These are the keys of the road traveled to here, both in our country and in other European countries:
A common structure
Since the adoption of the Lisbon Recognition Convention in 1997, drawn up by Unesco and the Council of Europe, the various systems of European university degrees have been harmonized through the gradual implementation of the Bologna Plan , and according to a common system of three levels: degree (equivalent, in general, to the old degree in Spain), master’s and doctorate.
The Bologna Declaration was an initiative originally signed in this northern Italian city, on June 19, 1999, by 29 European countries : all those that made up then the European Union, Spain included, and others belonging to the European Free Space Trade and east and center of the continent. With the signing of this Declaration, the so-called Bologna Process, or Bologna Plan, was adopted , which has subsequently been shaped by various changes and the inclusion of more states, through various agreements.
A total of 47 countries have signed the Bologna Plan, although not all of them have begun to be applied.
The objective of the Bologna Process is to carry out a profound reform of the university system in Europe, through the construction of the so-called European Higher Education Area (EHEA), designed from the Anglo-Saxon model and organized according to the treaty itself, taking into account principles of quality, mobility, diversity and competitiveness. In this sense, the Plan aims to achieve full student mobility within the continent and the homogenization of higher education in Europe, thus facilitating validation and, ultimately, improving job opportunities.
Fundamentally, Bologna introduced a new system of credits and degrees, a new financing of studies and more mobility for students, teachers, researchers and administration and services personnel.
Many Spanish cities were the scene of demonstrations and confinements against the Bologna Plan In Spain, the Organic Law of Universities (LOU) of 2001 was modified in April 2007 by the then Socialist Government, and that same year the new Ordination of Teachings was approved University.
“Mercantilization” of the university
Against the reform promoted by the Bologna Plan, not only the students, but also professors and politicians manifested themselves in the first years of its implementation. Madrid, Barcelona and many other Spanish cities were the scene of demonstrations and confinements against the new model.
For the students, the convergence to the EHEA was nothing more than a commercial reconversion of the university . They spoke of “privatization” and “mercantilization” of the Spanish university system, and rejected the substitution of degrees by degrees.
With respect to the new degrees, those who opposed the Plan denounced that the increase in the economic cost necessary to obtain the second cycle would result in an elitization of the University, since not all students could afford it.
In general, the detractors of the Process point out that the supposed positive objective of creating a common educational space hides the idea of turning the European university into a quarry for large companies, leaving aside its role as a place of human formation and development, and becoming a mere factory of valid individuals for the labor market.
The defenders of the Bologna Plan, on the contrary, maintain that it improves the work opportunities of university students, since their degrees are recognized in all the signatory countries, and the new curricula are more oriented to the training of professionals demanded by the University. society, with a greater specialization.
With respect to the credit system, they consider that the Plan organizes in a more real way the time of the students, establishing time limits and creating the possibility of studying part time to work, enrolling in fewer credits. They also defend that the overall work of the student and his initiative be valued more than the fact of simply attending master classes. They also argue that the system of degree and postgraduate (or master) is currently operating in most countries of the world.
The mixed system, majority
The mixed system that has just been approved by the Spanish Government is currently applied in 26 European countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom. Nine countries, including France or Finland, have opted for three-year degrees (180 credits), and eight (Russia, Turkey, Greece and Ukraine among them) maintain the up to now four-year Spanish model (240 credits).
EU countries remain responsible for their education systems and are free to apply their own standards . Despite the homogenization achieved by the Bologna Plan, there is no automatic recognition of academic qualifications in the EU. In other words, to obtain recognition of the studies or of the degree in another member country, it is necessary to follow the procedure established in that country.
The administrations of the EU countries are still responsible for their education systems and are free to apply their own rules, which among other things contemplate the recognition or not of the degrees obtained abroad.