The college Spanish is aware of the serious problem facing its graduates. The unemployment rate among higher graduates is the second highest in the European Union, 8.4% versus 3.9% on average. In addition, the 37.6% work in positions for which you do not need your degree, the well-known overqualification. Now the rectors of the 50 public campuses do self-criticism and consider changing their model. Although they are clear that “we must respect the vocation” of their students, they want reduce the number of degrees –offer has skyrocketed in recent years and is 20% above the real demand of students— and improve professional guidance to adjust profiles to the positions demanded by the labor market. This Thursday and Friday the rectors meet in Toledo to define the new University of 2030.
That is not the only front they have open. In 2030, according to the projection of Cedefop, an EU agency, the new jobs created in Spain will require 65% of professionals with medium qualifications —Professional training— and 35% with high-level higher education and university graduates. To facilitate the transit between both modalities, the president of the rectors’ conference (CRUE), José Carlos Gómez Villamandos, said Wednesday that they will demand the Government to create gateways so that the approved subjects of a university student who decides to take the step to the higher VF are validated. Now, however, a graduate in higher FP does not have to apply to Selectivity to access the University.
Pedro Ribas, 24, studied two Mechanical Engineering courses at the University of León, but the degree did not convince him and left him. “There was a lot of formula, theory of Physics, Mathematics … and no contact with reality, with something tangible,” he says. He decided on a degree of Dual FP – which combines studies with paid practices – in maintenance of Red Eléctrica power plants in collaboration with the Junta de Castilla y León. “From the career you leave without knowing how to work in a company, they are little focused on the labor market,” he says after finishing the professional degree. 80% have work the day it ends.
Are there too many university students in Spain? That is precisely the question raised by CRUE in the first chapter of its report. The University in figures 2017/2018, which he presented this Wednesday. According to OECD data, in 2017, 31.6% of young people between 19 and 24 years old enrolled in a campus, above 29, 1% on average in other countries. In other European countries the rate is lower than that of Spain: 25.3% in the United Kingdom, 26.6% in Germany or 26.8% in France.
“There are more graduates than the market can absorb. The rectors are obsessed with not reducing the number of students, which is directly linked to the financing of the campuses; more effort is needed to improve the employability of students, ”says Antonio Cabrales, Professor of Economics at University College London and an expert in university financing.
From the CRUE, one of his deputy vice presidents, Juan Juliá (former rector of the Polytechnic University of Valencia) defends that “there are no left over university students”. “In its 2020 Strategy, the EU recommended that the Member States achieve the objective that at least 40% of job offers require higher degrees; Spain is still at 32%, ”explains Juliá, who believes that one must be“ cautious ”with Cedefop’s prediction of the demand for medium profiles in 2030.“ We don’t even know what jobs are going to be created; stopping the training of university students would not be prudent. ” Juliá is confident that the Spanish market needs more and more senior graduates. “The digital competences are acquired, fundamentally, in the masters. I doubt that an expert in big data don’t have a graduate level as a starting point, ”he adds.
“Companies demand us engineers, but there are not enough, and if they do not look for a university profile capable of addressing the digital challenge in any area. There are plenty of graduates, but they need to develop skills, ”explains Ana Portaceli of the Fundación Universidad Empresa, an agency of the Chamber of Commerce of Madrid that has been studying the market for 45 years and offers scholarships in small and large companies. “Many law students are entitled but do they know how to use the new technological tools in their field? Or in Medicine, Sociology, Journalism… ”
More employment in FP
In 2018, job offers that required a degree of FP (42.3%) exceeded for the first time those that demanded a university degree (38.5%), according to the Adecco employment platform. The fields with the lowest employability, according to a government study, are Fine Arts (50% work four years after graduation), Other foreign languages (50%) or Law (55%). The most demanded are Medicine (91%), Optics (90%) or Computer Science (84%).
“We tell them to study and then we don’t offer them positions at their height; that frustrates or depresses them, ”laments Antonio Abril, president of the university’s social conferences (the bridge between the company’s campuses) and secretary general of Inditex. “Business and University go on parallel rails that do not cross, although they have a common interest: employability. In Spain, 95% of companies have less than 10 workers and offer low-level jobs that are more in line with what graduates in FP offer, ”he says. Juan Romo, rector of Carlos III, is committed to the coexistence of campuses with technological institutes of higher FP, such as those in Germany or the Netherlands very in touch with the industry.
April believes that mechanisms should be streamlined. “A public university takes a year and a half to change the content of a subject and three to create a new degree. It is nonsense. That is why private universities compete well, with less internal bureaucracy, which offer degrees that are closer to employability. There are those who say that the University cannot be an employment factory, but neither can it be forgotten that students want to work. ”
The Basque Country, with a solid business fabric – it has 20% of large companies -, was always a leader in the implementation of dual Vocational Training (learning in a classroom and a job), and now its three universities (Basque Country, Mondragón and Deusto) bet on this model in their teachings. The pilot test began in 2011 at the Machine Tool Institute. “The institute had a very strong relationship with Germany and France and copied its dual model,” explains Nekane Balluerka, rector of the University of the Basque Country. Between 20% and 50% of the credits are approved with practice.
“Then the Basque Government regulated these degrees. There has to be a company that welcomes the student; a training in competitions with a tutor in the company and another in the University; train the tutors and have an external agency accredit the studies, ”Balluerka lists about the conditions.
“For companies it is a way of caring for and capturing talent, because there are not many vocations. And for students a lever towards employability, ”continues the rector. The course that comes the University of the Basque Country will offer 14 dual degree and master degrees related to engineering, ADE or Computer Science.