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University professors with a temporary contract may not exceed 20% of the staff, according to the draft law

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The future Organic Law of the University System (LOSU), the draft of which was approved by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, introduces important changes in the academic world. The rectors may only be in office for a maximum term of six years, measures will be put in place to reduce the precariousness of the teaching staff and the campuses will be able to use positive action tools to promote gender equality.

The rule establishes that the percentage of temporary contracts on campus will be a maximum of 20%, compared to the 40% allowed today by the Organic Law of Universities, which the new rule will repeal once it is approved. Official teaching staff must represent at least 55% of the total, when the minimum proportion is now 51%. And universities that have a percentage of associate professors greater than 15% of the total workforce must reserve 15% of the new places in their promotion and stabilization programs for people from this group, who have a doctorate and have been giving class at the institution for at least five years. The Associated PDI Platform has “negatively assessed” the text, considering that it does not solve the problems that the group is dragging on “with the added problem” that it leads them to “work even fewer hours”.

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The text prepared by the department headed by Manuel Castells will now remain in the public display phase before returning to the Council of Ministers for final approval and going to Congress, where it will have to be negotiated with other groups to achieve the majority required by organic laws. (the votes of half plus one of the members of the House).

Equate teaching and research

In the selection commissions to award places, the convening university will be in the minority and the members who are not from the institution will be chosen by a lottery that will use a database “at a national or international level” made up of professors from the same or higher category.

The text aims to improve the quality of university teaching and for this it will introduce a permanent evaluation of this activity for the first time. The evaluation of teachers is now mainly focused on their research work through what are known as six-year research periods, which have consequences on the remuneration and professional careers of teachers. Now the six-year terms of teaching excellence will also be implemented. Many universities already evaluate teaching through a program called Docentia, approved by the official academic accreditation agency Aneca. In this program, criteria such as the results of student surveys, the teaching innovation projects in which they participate, the use of digital tools for teaching and others are taken into account.

From now on, in all the competitions to designate a place, the universities must equate the teaching merits of the candidates and those of research. Now, on some campuses, research studies continue to weigh more.

Sex preferences

Article 52 of the regulation allows universities to adopt “positive action measures” in the allocation of teaching positions. “Positive action measures may be established in competitions for access to positions for civil servant teaching and research personnel and hired to favor access for women,” the text states. To do this, “reservations and preferences may be established in the contracting conditions so that, under equal conditions of suitability, people of the sex less represented in the teaching body or category in question have preference to be hired.” That is, although the text only expressly mentions women, universities may also give priority, in case of equal merits, to men, if they are less represented in a certain area and want to balance the presence of both sexes.

Rector election

The law introduces a major change in the election of rector. They will only be able to serve for a non-extendable period of six years (now the norm is two four-year terms). And not only the professors will be able to present themselves to rector, as is the case now, but all the members of the teaching body of civil servants who meet three requirements: have three six-year research, three five-year teaching and four years of previous experience in academic management. “The important thing is not the rank, but the management capacity,” said Castells.

The norm allows that the rector can be chosen by a committee designated by the cloister of the university. In it, Castells explained, there should be a majority of “professors and researchers” from the institution, but it should also have 30% of people outside the university. Now, the normal thing is that the rector is chosen by direct election on the part of the educational community in a system with weighted vote and low participation of the students, although the legislation also allows the cloister to do so.

The Coordinator of Student Representatives of Public Universities (CREUP) has criticized the election system proposed by the future law, considering that “it will mean a serious setback in the internal democracy of the universities, as well as in the rights” of the students.

The cloister will have a maximum of 100 members. Now there is no limit, which means that in some universities their large size does not facilitate decision-making.

Research funds

Universities “must dedicate at least 5% of their budget to their own research programs.” And reserve 15% of the permanent places for researchers. “For me, without research, there is no university,” Castells said during the presentation of the standard. The text also regulates the so-called “industrial doctorates”, which will allow those who take them to develop their research projects within companies. It is a way to promote the transfer of knowledge and bring the academic and productive worlds closer together.

A class from the Faculty of Biology of the Autonomous University of Madrid, in September 2020.
A class from the Faculty of Biology of the Autonomous University of Madrid, in September 2020.Santi Burgos

The draft considers scientific knowledge as “a public good”. And for this reason, while respecting intellectual property norms, administrations and universities “will promote their commitment to open science, through access to publications, data, codes and methodologies that guarantee the communication of research.”

Protocols against sexual harassment

The new law promotes gender equality, reinforcing the mandate (already enunciated in the Organic Law of the University, LOU, now in force) that there be parity in the collegiate bodies of the universities. It establishes a “salary register” to combat the gap that exists between the salaries that women and men receive in the faculties. And the universities that do not have them will still have to create equality and diversity units (yes, the draft qualifies, they have sufficient resources), as well as equality plans and protocols against sexual harassment. The campuses must respect a balanced composition in all the selection and evaluation committees, as well as approve conciliation measures.

“The promotion of scientific projects with a gender perspective, gender parity in research teams, and mechanisms that facilitate the promotion of a greater number of female principal researchers will be encouraged,” the text states.

Universities must also have a body of “university defense” and another “inspection of services” with sufficient human and financial resources. The service inspection service, which already exists in a good part of the campuses, is in charge of processing, among others, the academic discipline files against the teaching staff, and must be independent of the rector. It will also be mandatory to have a body in charge of carrying out the internal audit, which must be independent from “the unipersonal governing bodies of the university”.

Hire distinguished professors

The law encourages agreements with academic institutions in other countries to develop joint degrees and programs, as well as the international mobility of students, professors, and administration staff. And it introduces the figure of the “distinguished faculty” as a way, Castells said, of attracting talent “of the highest level” to the university. Through this figure, universities will be able to hire national or foreign professors of recognized international prestige in their field, but who are working outside of Spain, without having to be accredited by Aneca and paying what the governing council of the institution deems appropriate.

The limit of these contracts will be three years, which may be extended for another two. Later, if he wants to stay, the professor must have accredited and inserted himself into one of the contractual figures provided for in the regulations (presumably professor), with the corresponding land. In return, the rule limits the figure of visiting professors, who can only be used for one year (now there are universities that extend it for a decade).

Subjective right to the scholarship

The new law establishes that scholarships are “a subjective right” linked “to the socioeconomic situation of the students.” This reference seeks to prevent the Administrations from limiting the aid to a certain amount, once consumed which the applications that arrive later are not valued, as well as the prevailing criteria such as having high qualifications prevail over the socioeconomic ones. The Government has increased the threshold for full scholarship in recent years. To receive it as part of a family of four, the household had to have an annual income of 13,000 euros, and now it has risen to 23,000.

The norm establishes a system by which the General Conference on University Policy, in which both the Government and the autonomous communities participate, will set a limit on public prices for university studies each year.

Mention to the king

In the preliminary draft there is no express mention of the king in the issuance of the titles, as is the case in the current standard (the LOU). But this, sources from the ministry point out, does not mean that it will see changes in practice, because the same mention of the monarch that appears in the LOU also appears in the decree on the issuance of official university degrees, of 2010, which is not going away. to be modified and which establishes: “The degrees will be issued, in the name of the King, by the Rector or Rectors of the corresponding University or Universities”.

Time limit for non-doctor teaching staff

The law will give a maximum of eight years, from the entry into force of the law, for non-doctor professors who now teach in some faculties, to obtain the title of doctor. If after this period they have not obtained it, they must leave the institution. The Social Councils will be appointed by the regional assemblies through candidatures that must present action programs.

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