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Spain's 'adopt-a-student' plan scares undergrads

George Mills · 9 Sep 2013, 11:50

Published: 09 Sep 2013 11:50 GMT+02:00

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It all started with a telephone call.

In July, the Dean of Spain's Malaga University, Adelaida de la Calle, received a call from a pensioner offering to pay the course fees of one student.

From there, her proposal took shape.

"Just as it's possible to 'sponsor a child', it would also be possible to 'sponsor a student' and pay their tuition fees," said the dean, who is also head of the Association of Spanish University Deans (CRUE).

"We want to launch a social action campaign," De la Calle told Spain's El País newspaper.

The 'adopt-a-student' proposal is still only in the planning stage, and its legal viability remains to be established, but De La Calle sees it as a way out for some of Spain's struggling students.

Funding cuts to education have seen Spain's universities slash funding by 12.3 percent since 2103, according to estimates from the country's general workers CCOO.

At the same time, fees have shot up anywhere from 22 percent to 92 percent in just two years, depending on the region.

To make matters worse, authorities have tightened access to scholarships.

And while Spain's universities do provide emergency funds to students in financial difficulties, the system is struggling.

A study carried out in June by El País  found that at least 30,000 students, or 2.3 percent of the national total were in danger of being expelled from campus for failing to pay up debts.

But the sponsor a student plan has received mixed reactions.

The Federation of Spanish Students Associations (Feast) welcomed the idea. But the group also said it "could only be a temporary measure" and that "the State" should be the one to "provide help and grants to students in need".

The Secretary General of the Spain's Union of Students Ana García  was a lot more forceful in her reaction.

She said the proposal would see education becoming "a form of charity rather than a right".

Meanwhile, the Dean of the University of Seville Antonio Ramírez de Arellano described De la Calle's proposal as a way to raise awareness about the difficulties Spanish students faced.

Story continues below…

"But I still think grants and financial assistance should come from the public purse," the university boss told El País.

The Dean of the University of Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla Vicente C. Guzmán is in favour of the proposal.

"In Spain we're not used to private initiatives as part of university funding," said Guzmán, who said his institution has received calls from people offering financial assistance.

But he called for transparency in the donation process.

"They (the donations) have to properly regulated and controlled: the person giving the money should know where it's going."

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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