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Spain's new university law: Eight key points you should know

The Local Spain
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Spain's new university law: Eight key points you should know
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A new law on the Spanish university system officially comes into force today, with new spending commitments and caps on public fees. Here's all you need to know.

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On Wednesday, April 12th, Spain's new 'Organic Law of the University System' (LOSU) officially enters into force. The reforms are wide-ranging, and include a commitment to spending one percent of Spain's GDP on universities, banning gender-segregated colleges, and caps on public university fees.

After being formally approved at a Council of Ministers' meeting in March, Spain's Universities Minister Joan Subirats said that "universities are and must continue to be the beacon that projects the values of Europe to the world: democratic values, social rights, equality and recognition of diversity". 

Of the law itself, the Minister said: "I am proud because I believe that this law allows universities to continue to maintain an essential function that they have been doing for hundreds of years. They are and will continue to be fundamental pillars for preserving ideological pluralism, for the generation of critical knowledge, for the human and professional preparation of young people, for the development of research and innovation and for their transfer to society."

You can read the government's official press release on the law here, and the BOE here.

But what does the law actually do? What are the changes? And what does it mean if you're a student in Spain, or considering moving here to study?

Here are the key aspects of the new university law:

  • Teaching evaluations: The way teaching staff at universities are evaluated will be modified, with an emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative data, and taking into account open access to publications, the impact of their research, linguistic plurality, and their professional experience.

  • Language: The new law establishes the inclusion of Catalan, Basque and Galician in the Erasmus exchange programmes and in other publicly funded mobility programs.

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  • Gender segregation: One of the most eye-opening parts of the law is the reform on gender segregation, which bans private colleges with segregated practices from being ascribed to a public university. This amendment was introduced at the draft stage of the bill by left-wing party Más País, and comes in the aftermath of a recent episode of sexist chanting at the Colegio Mayor Elías Ahuja in Madrid - a segregated college - where a hate crime investigation was recently filed by the prosecutor's office in Madrid.

  • Contracts: The law also aims to end the precariousness of work that many university teaching staff feel in Spain, and includes introducing a ceiling of eight percent for temporary contracts (the current average is around 40 percent), and reducing the number of associate professors and visitors by making those roles indefinite positions.

  • Funding: It introduces a commitment of a minimum expenditure of one percent of GDP on universities moving forward, an increase that is in line with a broader, pre-existing commitment of a minimum of five percent of GDP spending on education overall.

  • Lifelong learning: Subirats has also emphasised that the law hopes to encourage lifelong learning, that is, making universities more accessible to students of all ages, both to help adults respond to the demands of the job market, but also the expected demographic change in the coming years. Lifelong learning will become a basic function of universities, with courses of varying lengths.

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  • Fees: The government previously established a maximum fee for public universities that was approved by the regions and eliminated the differences between fees across the country, while establishing caps to avoid excessive price increases. The new law consolidates these measures by giving regions the power to set fee levels, under the condition that they follow the government's pre-established principle of lowering prices progressively. That is to say, fees at public universities in Spain can only be reduced or maintained, never put up.

  • Foreign campuses: Spanish universities can create 'centres' or campuses abroad, which provide teaching that counts towards official university degrees valid across Spain, whether alone or through agreements with other national, supranational or foreign institutions.

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