The Minister of Universities, Manuel Castells, has denied this morning that he has been missing in recent months, has announced a monthly press conference from now on and has defended the measures taken by his ministry and the universities during these months in the management of the pandemic in a situation of “uncertainty”. In an interview this morning on the Carne Cruda radio show, Castells has commented that the autonomous communities can make a greater effort in financing the university to relieve families, he has explained his desire (intention) to double the percentage of GDP that is dedicated to Universities and has added that “One of the great problems of the Spanish university is that companies do not help to finance it, without cutting off its autonomy.”
Castells has again come up against criticism for his alleged absence in recent months. “I’m not missing, I’m working,” he defended. “For me, politics is about doing things for people. I spend my time trying to make sure that there are scholarships, that fees are lowered, that teachers have more decent salaries and careers, that students know what they have to do in everything moment … “, has reviewed the measures already taken or negotiated by his ministry these days, such as the future statute of Research Teaching Personnel (PDI).
In any case, the minister, who has given two press conferences since he is in charge of Universities (“and 12 interviews in three months”, has claimed this morning), has insisted that if in recent times little has been lavished It was publicly because Moncloa decided the appearances during the confinement and they did not require more than a press conference, but he has announced that he now intends to make an appearance before journalists a month.
“You can only do two things”
Regarding his role during these months of crisis, Castells explained that “in a situation like this you can only do two things: take measures so that uncertainty is as low as possible and have a personal psychological flexibility to know how to adapt, with good communication to all and the participation of the university community. The most important thing “, he remarked,” is that students are well informed of everything that is done “, aspect that is precisely what the university students reproach him, that a few days after the start of the course they do not know in many cases if they will have face-to-face or distance classes, whether to rent an apartment or get the transport subscription.
The minister has also spoken about the upcoming course. “Universities are as prepared as they can be, but it is not possible to prevent everything,” he assured. Asked about the need for classes to be face-to-face in the middle of 2020 – an aspect that is being emphasized a lot these days, guaranteeing the maximum possible presence -, he denied the most (“a large part of the interaction of teachers and students is online , the university is a hybrid system “), but he has admitted that” for now “it should continue to be that way, slipping a glimmer of change about which he has said nothing more.
Castells has also spent some time talking about university financing, one of the great debts of the system and more since the cuts suffered after the 2008 crisis, which the now politician has described as “the most stupid policy that can be done: Instead of strengthening the universities to get out of the crisis, it was cut back. ” The minister, who has reached an agreement with the autonomous communities to set maximum prices and thus harmonize the cost of studying a degree throughout Spain, is aware that the campuses are under-funded and has shown his desire to reverse this situation. to ease the burden on families.
“It is not the students who should finance the university,” he explained. “The autonomous communities could do a little more as well,” he added. But one of the problems for this is Spain continues with the budgets of Cristóbal Montoro. In addition, the minister believes that the lack of private funds also weighs on the universities. “One of the great problems of the University is that companies do not help to finance the University without cutting off its autonomy. Universities must set the conditions for these funds,” he explained, alluding to his former job at Barkeley University, in California, a public center but that “much of its world prestige is linked to the financing of private companies.”
Finally, Castells has spoken of the statute of the PDI, which his portfolio negotiates these days with the teachers’ unions. “It is one of the issues for which I decided to get involved in change at the university,” he assured. Responding to a listener of the program, who has asked him about promotions and public competitions, the minister recalled that “the law establishes – and it is organic, therefore difficult to change – that 51% of campus staff they must be civil servants “, a percentage that on the one hand is not fulfilled and that on the other the minister seems to suggest that he wants to change (one of the novelties that the ministry has presented in its draft statute is to establish a career parallel to the civil service at the university ).