The universities' career in attracting students has multiplied the offer of university degrees, but has not achieved its objective. In the last six years, the number of degrees has increased by 19% (from 2,403 to 2,855). The campuses have had more public funding to sustain that offer but have not been able to make it profitable. Public universities have lost 154,600 students since the 2010-2011 academic year, 12.2%. However, private companies have not only increased their clientele but have doubled it since 2000-2001. In spite of this, at present the public share 74.6% of the titles compared to 25.4% of the private ones.
"The rectors have fallen into a trap; They believed that diversifying the offer would bring an increase in the number of enrollments, but this has not been the case. On the contrary: the number of students has fallen and the cost for the start-up of these careers has increased. We need a system revision ", criticizes Albert Corominas, professor of Polytechnic University of Catalonia and co-author of the report University degrees: how many and which ones? Analysis of the offer of undergraduate studies in public and private universities, which yesterday published in Barcelona the Observatory of the University System, an independent body formed by teachers, doctoral students and students.
The increase in 452 titles is largely due to private universities, which have increased their offer by 66%, while the average increase in public is 2%. "The average of the public confused by the disparity between communities; Madrid and Catalonia are in the lead with a rise of around 30%, but when dividing between the 17 autonomies, the data goes down a lot, "explains Corominas.
The report points out that one of the most serious problems is the "disorientation" caused by the students' "disproportionate" offer of degrees. "In Catalonia there are 400 undergraduate degrees, some of them highly specialized. That generates a great disorientation between parents and students when it comes to choosing the university career and many courses end with only a handful of students enrolled. The University has too many open doors, "says Josep Joan Moreso, president of the Agència per a la Qualitat of the University System of Catalonia. A study of the rectors' conference (CRUE) of 2015 already recorded the serious problem of the increasing offer of degrees despite the small number of new students.
STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY
In first and second cycle studies and degree
The fact that this increase in degrees coincided with the cut in funding of the universities is another of the points indicated in the report, which questions the quality of those careers launched at a critical moment. The universities lost 4.520 million euros of investment between 2010 and 2015, according to the calculations of the CRUE. As a consequence, the staffs were reduced (5,000 fewer teachers), and university fees increased to 47% in some communities.
How is the career of universities explained by offering so many degrees? The current funding model gives more resources to campuses with more students and more grades. "In the end they end up creating degrees of difficult justification beyond guaranteeing the survival of some departments", says in the study Joan Elias, rector of the University of Barcelona, which regrets the lack of planning and coherence in the degree map and the inflation of titles.
For Juan Hernández Armenteros, expert in the Spanish university system, the problem is that the offer of new titles has not been accompanied by the closing of other older titles that have run out of demand. "There is a very high waste of resources." One of the conclusions of the study refers precisely to that point. "It is very likely that if a single university increases its offer get more resources from the Administrations. But if all do so at the same time, the only expected result is an increase in costs. With the same resources and higher expenses, it is difficult that the quality does not suffer ".
Another of the major criticisms is the approach and content that make up the grades. According to the authors of the report, far from offering a basic and general training to provide students with tools to update their knowledge throughout their lives and ensure their long-term employability, the new degrees have too specialized content. "The first years of a career must be used by students to acquire a degree of maturity based on knowledge and skills that last, and then specialize," says Francesc Torres, rector of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.
TOTAL OFFER OF STUDIES BY COMMUNITIES
The private University in the last decade has won 75,000 undergraduate students – many enrolled in teachings on-line– The reasons are diverse; Many companies have claimed to open a campus – in Madrid, three have just been licensed – and even the International University of La Rioja (on-line) just went public with great success. Of the 285 new degrees taught since the 2010-2011 academic year, 112 correspond to newly created centers.
Their success is due to the fact that they offer to a large extent careers in Health Sciences -such as Medicine, Dentistry or Pharmacy- with very low access grades, unlike those required in public centers. The exception is the University of Navarra, where access tests are very hard. "If you have to pay 12,000 euros per year your child can study medicine with a simple five in Selectividad", lament public sources.
Juan Romo, rector of the Carlos II UniversityI, does not suffer the bleeding of students. Its campus has the highest admission rate in all of Spain, and covers all of its places in July with an average grade that never drops below 7.5. Attributes the decline of students of the public, in part, to the demography but also remember that the university, as a public service that is, must also offer titles with low demand, for example Classical Philology. Romo believes that the key is to "orient well the new grades that are programmed to be creative," and not copy those that already exist. In his four years in office -the second now begins- eight new titles have been born in Carlos III. "With Gregorio Peces Barba we invented the double titles – Right and Economic, for example – and now the integrated ones, conceived to receive an integral formation. And then we have the duals, in which you can choose the subjects you want from the same area of knowledge the first two years. " "The basis with which students arrive, and reflects the PISA report, is not well established and is what you have to do in the degree. The master already exists, "says Romo.
The report of the independent Observatory of the University System holds that classes taught in English should be subject to an audit to assess their quality. "The teacher is not obliged to have an English with the linguistic quality required for university teaching, nor has he generally been subjected to any test that assesses him".
English classes are essential to attract foreign students. A high percentage of foreigners is a good indicator of the quality of a university and, in addition, it allows to attract more resources, because the extra-community members pay full tuition.
Juan Romo, rector of the Carlos III University, believes that there is a lack of degrees taught in English on public campuses. "The children who have studied in bilingual centers in the school and the institute do not have then where to continue studying the degree in English," he reflects. Its campus offers almost all degrees – except for some of the humanities or social sciences – entirely in English or with a bilingual model.
In 2013, Brussels proposed to teach in the lingua franca classes on campuses to seduce foreigners because in 2030 international students will have quadrupled.