With a staff of close to 1,600 professors and more than 20,000 students, of which 15,000 study a degree, the schools and faculties of the University of Las Palmas are facing the extraordinary situation of the coronavirus pandemic in a different way this academic year . In all the centers, only 29% have opted for face-to-face classes, while 57% maintain a hybrid model that has grown in face-to-face as the course progresses, and only Legal Sciences and Computer Engineering have remained anchored in online teaching that began with the state of alarm and confinement in 2020.
«The problem of presence depends somewhat on the teaching nature of the subjects and the professors. Although the University can say that it aspires to give the maximum face-to-face teaching, the truth is that we have a very old staff, at risk in many cases and teachers who are in this situation cannot be forced to teach in a full classroom of students, we must respect each reality, “said Dorado.
Many faculties that started the course with a mixed model have been increasing their presence
This is the case of the Faculty of Legal Sciences, where the average age of the teaching staff exceeds 60 years, a situation however very similar to that of Architecture, which also has a teaching staff with a very high average age, with many teachers at risk and yet have opted for a hybrid teaching system. “The difference between the two centers”, explains the vice-rector of the ULPGC, “is that in Architecture they have more favorable infrastructures for face-to-face teaching, the classrooms are very large, with huge work tables, and there are fewer students. However, in Legal Sciences the classes are more theoretical and there are many students per classroom, between 150 and 200, and attendance cannot be given with that percentage of the aging staff and volume of students ”.
To ensure the best conditions for teaching, the University Governing Council approved in July 2020 in an extraordinary meeting a document of measures for the adaptation of teaching at the beginning of the current 2020-2021 academic year as a result of Covid-19, in the that include preventive measures such as reducing the number of people in closed spaces, adapting teaching and work spaces for members of the university community considered risk groups or periodic inspections by the Occupational Risk Prevention Service of the ULPGC, among others. In this sense, the current vice-rector for Teaching Staff, Academic Planning and Educational Innovation, who took office a little more than a month ago, points out that it is a good idea to give the competences to the centers “that know their teachers and their infrastructure better, and This has made it possible to adapt the teaching a lot, to the particularities, with the fears, reluctance and risks of each teacher ».
Aware that many views compare the situation of schools and institutes, which have followed a totally face-to-face model with success despite mobilizing thousands of students, Cecilia Dorado points out that the situation of higher education, and in particular of the ULPGC, differs of the non-university in three aspects: space, teachers and students.
In Law and Architecture, the average age of teachers is over 60 years
Regarding the space, the professor recalls that the institutes have been able to unfold the groups of students and separate them in turns. «They have put high school in the afternoon and the rest of the levels in the morning so that there would be more classrooms and they could split the groups. We, at the University, could not do that because we already occupied the classrooms in the morning and in the afternoon, therefore, we could not unfold more ».
Regarding the teaching staff, Cecilia Dorado points out that it is older because the retirement age is higher than at other educational levels. «Our teaching staff is older, in secondary education it is possible to retire at 60 years of age, while at the University we endure until the age of 70, there are quite a few centers with a teaching staff whose average age is over 60 years, and there are many with 59. They are a population more at risk ”.
And finally, he pointed out the age of the students, something that influences the risk of contagion. “University students may be more exposed to the virus because they are at an age in which they go out more, their social relationships are greater, and they are in the age groups with the highest risk of contagion, compared to students in schools and institutes.”
However, Cecilia Dorado foresees that presence will be the general trend for the next course at the ULPGC thanks to the vaccination campaigns. «The reluctance and well-founded fear that older teachers have had, especially in the most numerous centers, due to the pandemic situation as they are a population at risk, will change after vaccines, so the scenario for the next academic year It will be very different, “he concluded.