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The first private university in Galicia makes its way despite the rejection of the rectors and the opposition

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Private university education is gaining ground in Spain and in Galicia. Abanca, the bank born from the ashes of the Galician savings banks and the most powerful financial institution in the community, promotes the first private university of this autonomy with the endorsement of the Xunta de Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the support of the employers and the rejection of the rectors of the three public institutions, the unions, the student organizations and the two opposition parties (BNG and PSOE). Galicia is together with Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha one of the five territories where up to now the offer of higher education has been 100% public. When it is completed, the Intercontinental University of Business will become the 40th private university in Spain, compared to the 50 public.

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The Abanca project aims to teach various studies on business management, including a degree in Business Administration and Management which, with the same name, can currently be taken at five of the seven campuses that are part of Galician public universities. After years identifying the repetition of degrees as a problem, the Feijóo Government defends that the studies offered by this private university are “complementary” to those that exist due to their “specialization”.

The bill for the creation of the first private university in Galicia has begun its parliamentary journey this Tuesday blessed by the absolute majority of the PP. The Minister of Education, Román Rodríguez, has ensured that the campus, which he says is created “non-profit”, respects Galician law that requires that the catalog of degrees of any newly created university “must be complementary and not repetitive ”With respect to existing studies. But given the “evidence” of similarities between the titles of Abanca and those already offered in Galicia that the opposition has denounced, the PP has qualified the argument and has argued that “prohibiting” a private university the repetition of titles is “illegal” Because this was established in 2019 by a ruling of the Constitutional Court, which annulled an article of an Aragon law after the appeal presented by the Government of Mariano Rajoy.

The BNG deputy Manuel Lourenzo believes that the project is born “from Abanca’s excessive greed and the Xunta’s alignment with its interests” and criticizes that its processing “has not kept even the most elementary forms.” The socialist Noa Díaz has warned that the permissiveness of the Galician Government with the university of Abanca “opens the spigot to approve any project that appears” in the future and has reproached that the report of the General Secretariat of Universities of the Xunta that endorsed the measure “looks like an advertising pamphlet” of the bank.

Students from the University of Santiago de Compostela next to the Concepción Arenal Library on the South Campus, on March 24.
Students from the University of Santiago de Compostela next to the Concepción Arenal Library on the South Campus, on March 24.OSCAR CORRAL / EL PAÍS

The rectors of Santiago, A Coruña and Vigo have also expressed doubts that the Intercontinental University of the Company avoids the reiteration of degrees that Galician law requires. They consider it unnecessary because, they argue, the public system in Galicia has the “capacity” to “provide a solution to the demands of students and the business community,” in the words of Antonio López, head of the Compostela campus. University leaders, who have been demanding more funding from the regional coffers for years, also declare themselves concerned that the new entity will devalue the quality of the Galician university network. The Xunta has promised them that the private institution will not mean “not a single euro” less for public universities.

The University of Abanca has received a favorable report from the Ministry of Universities. The Xunta raises this procedure to refute the criticisms of the opposition, but the department of Manuel Castells points out that this document only certifies that the project meets the conditions set by the state decree that regulates the creation of universities. However, “all the assessments on the relevance of the implantation of a university in a territory” correspond to the regional government, which must take into account factors such as the analysis of demand or demography, he adds. The ministry has also warned that this decree will be modified to establish new criteria that “will be applied retroactively to all universities,” including Abanca.

When the Intercontinental University of the Company obtains the foreseeable approval of the Galician Chamber, the Xunta must approve a decree that authorizes the start of activities of the new institution. Its future rector, Miguel Ángel Escotet, current head of Abanca’s social work and cousin of the bank’s president, Juan Carlos Escotet, estimates that it will begin to function in the 2022-2023 academic year. It will have its headquarters in Santiago, but its campuses will be in Vigo and A Coruña. It will offer four degrees, four masters and two doctoral programs, all related to business management. The annual enrollment of a degree will be around 8,000 euros and that of a master, 10,000.

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