Tue. Aug 20th, 2019

José Carlos Gómez: "We must be aware of our idiosyncrasy, the Spanish picaresque" | Science

The quality guardian of the Spanish university, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA), is rejecting elite researchers, many of them with millionaire European grants, arguing that they do not meet certain rigid requirements, such as accumulation 600 hours of teaching "by weight", according to they have denounced several of those affected in the pages of EL PAÍS in the last days. The mathematician Carlos Andradas, rector until June of the largest university in Spain, the Complutense of Madrid, states directly that "It's time to be deleted" the accreditations, a bureaucratic first step required to be able to participate later in the fight with others accredited by a position of professor or professor. The rector of the University of Barcelona, ​​Joan Elias, has also requested the eradication of the accreditations of ANECA and its Catalan counterpart in your Twitter account: "They are nothing more than tariffs to prevent attracting talent."

The vet José Carlos Gómez Villamandos, 56-year-old from Cordoba, is rector of the University of Córdoba and, since May, president of the Conference of Rectors (CRUE), an association formed by 76 Spanish universities. Gómez Villamandos, Professor of Histology and Pathological Anatomy, calls for more autonomy for universities and an evolution of ANECA, but without volantazos.

Question. There are scientists from the European elite, with millionaire Consolidator Grant or even Advanced Grant, who are being rejected by ANECA. What is the opinion of the CRUE about these rigid criteria of ANECA to demand 600 hours of teaching, be you Einstein or whoever you are?

A university professor has to do teaching and research

Answer. We all agree that ANECA has to evolve, that it has to adapt. It was created at a certain time (the year 2002), for some needs, and now the situation is different. It may be necessary to define new teacher accreditation systems, some with more teaching careers and others with more research careers. But what can never be broken is the binomial: a university professor has to do teaching and research. What you have to study and analyze is how to play with the percentages to become a full professor or professor. And adapt it a little more to the current situation.

P. How?

R. I agree that a person with a Ramón y Cajal (contracts reserved for outstanding researchers) can not ask for 600 hours of teaching, we must ask a little less, and that has to be compensated with a very excellent investigation. But let's not forget that within the university system there are staff with equally excellent curricula from the point of view of research and also with a teaching activity. Excellent there is outside and inside. It is credited people who are inside and people from outside that is very good, and we must encourage them to enter. The system certainly has to conform and adjust a little more. We're working with the government trying that there is some modification of the norm, with more autonomy on the part of the universities, but in the end with an accreditation process. Without losing the binomial: you have a more research career and can be accredited, you have a more teaching career and can be accredited. The two ways That is what we have always asked for: a slightly more flexible system.

P. Since when?

R. That was a document that was made, got into a drawer and has not come out again. There were two ways to reach accreditation. I speak of the famous Statute of the Teaching and Research Staff, which was in the time of Minister Gabilondo Angel. One of the problems is that I didn't have enough economic memory, but it was a brave statute. He talked about a teaching path and a research path. Both things had to be done both. It was a very ambitious bet.

Our system is excessively bureaucratized, everything is very baroque

P. The mathematician Carlos Andradas writes an opinion stand in EL PAÍS directly requesting that accreditations be suppressed, giving autonomy to the university and then asking for accountability. For example, universities could be accredited based on objectives and punished budgetaryly if they do not meet them.

R. I agree that we must have more autonomy and greater accountability. What we never have to lose sight of is that, if we remove one system, it is to have another prepared. I would not remove anything without having a sufficiently consensual and serious alternative on the table. And that of course does not mean lowering the quality levels that have taken us a lot of work to get. We have gone from anyone staying to not anyone entering. Sometimes situations like these occur, of very good people that are not going to be credited, but will take another year. We are going to put things in their place. We are also suffering the 10 years of crisis, which is leading people to be accredited 10 years later as a full professor and professor.

P. The previous rector of the Complutense also states that "this mandatory external accreditation does not exist in almost any country in our environment."

R. Yes there are some rules, sometimes much harder than ours. In Germany you cannot be a professor at the university where you have been hired for a while. There are other control standards. What is not there is a system as bureaucratized as ours. Ours is excessively bureaucratized. Everything here is very baroque, with lots of documentation. We should try to simplify it, to make it much more agile.

I would not remove anything without having a sufficiently consensual and serious alternative on the table

P. Andradas also argues that the mandatory external accreditation by ANECA "implies an implicit recognition of the inability of (and distrust in) universities to fully select their faculty with quality." You are also suggesting it: that if the accreditations are removed, maybe quality is lost.

R. Each university has its situation and its policies. If we speak as a system, I think we should have, if not controls, at least yes the tools to have that control. It could be, as Andradas says, accountability: you hire freely and then I'm going to ask you for accountability. That would perhaps be the ideal system, what happens is that our culture, unfortunately, goes in another way. We must be aware of reality and our idiosyncrasy.

P. When you talk about "our idiosyncrasy" does it refer to the historical tendency to inbreeding?

R. No, to the Spanish idiosyncrasy, the Spanish picaresque. We are not going to fool ourselves either. Culturally, we are from the Mediterranean area. We have to be aware of how we are, well, of how we should not be. We should be much stiffer in some things. So, we must maintain accountability or control systems, let's call them what we want, but that allow us not to lose what we've worked for. A lot of work has been done to increase the quality of the Spanish university. Let's not lose that which has cost us so much, because it has been the work of many generations. Do not lose it by situations of specific groups that lead us to make decisions that are not correct for the rest of the university system.

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