June 20, 2021

Castells presents a plan with 143 million euros to digitize the university “without losing the value of being present”


The Minister of Universities, Manuel Castells, presented this Thursday UniDigital, a project that has 142.85 million euros of European funds for innovation and modernization of universities from the digital field. Its implementation will take place in the next three years. According to data from the CRUE (Conference of Rectors of Universities), only 40% of Spanish centers have computer programs. “Digitization does not require fewer teachers, on the contrary, it is necessary to hire more and more qualified teachers,” the headline reassured in the press conference after the announcement.

Students from all over Spain revolt against face-to-face exams at the University in the middle of the third wave

Students from all over Spain revolt against face-to-face exams at the University in the middle of the third wave

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It has also clarified that UniDigital it does not intend to diminish face-to-face education, but rather seeks a “face-to-face approach complemented by digital technologies. Its main objectives are, firstly, to have technical, material and human resources to modernize the Spanish university system and, secondly, to stimulate innovation and digital transformation from the same centers. In this sense, all public universities will be able to access these grants based on the criteria of universality and proportionality, thus covering the 50 centers that are currently in Spain and its one and a half million students.

After the controversy raised by the Carlos III University and its plan to move to a blended system In the long term, something that stirs teachers and students, the Ministry has specified that the objective of its project is to put technology at the service of presence. “In Spain, our 673 university libraries have been pioneers since the 1980s in the digitization of catalogs and in the management of technological resources,” Castells recalled. Now, the aim is to digitize all teaching materials, notes and others, to make them available to students.

In this sense, the minister has once again emphasized the need for “open science” and to “democratize” research publications. “Scientific results should be published openly without having to pay for it,” he suggested. Regarding other controversial issues, such as the economic and resource management of the universities, he has appealed for the help of digitization to achieve “analytical accounting.”

For its part, it has advanced a project that involves the public distance university, UNED, to professionalize depopulated Spain. “Taking advantage of its 61 territorial faculties, which are everywhere and which play a training task for local companies, more adapted to the economy of the area, the intention is to add a component of entrepreneurship and employability centers to them”, summarized the Minister. Throughout these weeks more details will be known about it.

The four project modalities

UniDigital consists of 27 strategic projects that are grouped into four modalities and that the Ministry trusts that they will operate interuniversity: infrastructure projects and ICT services, development of software, teaching support, and strategic and coordination measures. “I do not want to call them dreams, but ideas, because I am convinced that we are going to achieve it”, has bet Manuel Castells.

Regarding the first block, oriented to infrastructures and cybersecurity, the intention to extend a 100 gig fiber optic network to all university campuses has been highlighted. “It will improve interoperability, allow integrated management and lower costs,” he said. They also want these services to be coordinated and centralized, and to move towards a federated network of public services at universities.

Among some of these shared projects is the development of storage infrastructures, security and recording of courses, digital learning environments and open source repositories, spaces for interaction and interuniversity learning, strengthening of free software in universities, training projects and measures reduction of the digital divide.

They will also bet that universities create their own softwares tailored to your teaching needs, rather than buying commercial packages. Finally, through the teaching support plan, the portfolio of Universities plans to reduce the digital gap between teachers and students through, for example, loans of advanced equipment “that will leave no one behind in this march of digitalization of the Spanish university system “.

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