The Law of Universities will recognize for the first time the right to strike of students

For the first time, university students will have the right to their version of the strike. The Organic Law of the University System (LOSU) is going to include in its articles the recognition of academic unemployment as a subjective right of the student body, as this newspaper has learned and confirms the Ministry of Universities. The measure was not included until now among the rights of university students, who do it de facto and without legal support and risk sanctions in centers that do not have it recognized in their internal regulations, which there are.

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"The recognition of a right is a big paradigm shift," explain sources from the Ministry of Universities, who also highlight that this is a response to a historical claim of the student body. The students have received the news with satisfaction. "It was a historic claim to guarantee our rights," says Nicolás Hernández, president of the Coordinator of Student Representatives of Public Universities (Creup).

“This guarantees both the right to stop and the right to attend class. We were one of the few groups that did not have the recognized right to claim without suffering consequences”, he says.

Although it is not very common, Hernández explains, in some situations students have seen how they were given tests during protests or unjustified absences were pointed out “which can end up costing you a subject,” he explains. When the law is approved, these practices will be prohibited, in the absence of seeing the concretion of the articles.

The measure represents an advance in the democratization of the University and is added in this line to others such as the updating of the University Coexistence Law, which dated from the Franco era, and was definitively approved last February. In the case of this standard, the first version of the text had the support of the rectors through the Crue and the student body through its representative bodies, but some amendments approved during the parliamentary process distanced these actors from the agreement and finally got ahead without their support.

Recognizing by law the right to academic strike –the right to strike as such does not exist for university students– “is a relevant right for the student body, to the extent that it enhances the effective exercise of freedom of expression, and the rights of meeting and association at the university level; its recognition and development must be based on the democratic principles of coexistence, university autonomy and respect for fundamental rights”, university sources explain.

The right to academic strike – which must meet a series of requirements, such as being convened by the legitimate student representative body, advance notice, formalization of claims, etc., similar to strikes – will cover class absences, activities of information and diffusion, of protest or the prohibition to carry out exams on the indicated days.

The question has been debated –and being demanded by the student body– for a long time. In 2020, the Catalan Síndic de Greuges (the ombudsman) asked for this right to be regulated as a result of the university protests due to the sentences of the trials of the Catalan independence process. Then, in the midst of a climate of tension in the community, many students demanded that their right to demonstrate be accompanied by measures to relax the evaluation criteria in their universities, the obligation to attend classes or participate in external internships, while others saw their right to enjoy the academic activity normally violated.

Many universities have regulated the right to academic unemployment in their internal regulations, but not all of them. And if the right is not specifically recognized, exercising it can, on paper, have consequences for the student who carries it out. The University of Seville, for example, establishes that the strike can be partial (only some subjects) or total (all teaching activity), that two days must pass from its call to its start and that the maximum duration period is two weeks, among other things.

With this measure, the Minister of Universities, Joan Subirats, advances in the personalization of the law that he announced he would carry out, after inheriting the text of his predecessor, Manuel Castells.

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