Yesterday the public Catalan universities went on strike against the too many budget cuts that we’re suffering. I didn’t join the strike as a) my not teaching students for one day does not bother anyone, b) I’m sick and tired of giving back more and more money every month to the Government(s) between the pay cuts and the rising taxes.
The students, logically, do not see things my way and yesterday there was a huge demonstration with motorways and main streets taken in Barcelona. The attempt to annoy as much as possible the gigantic mobile phone fair that has occupied Plaça Espanya only worked partly. I realise that the most violent protesters were not really university students but, though I absolutely hate any type of violence, this kind of street guerrilla will soon grow, given the violence of the Government(s) measures.
As regards hiring teachers, I have a strong sense of déjà vù, of the time when I was Head of Department (2005-8). Generalitat’s Secretary for Universities, Antoni Castellà, appeared yesterday on TV3 claiming he didn’t understand the meaning of the strike, as the Catalan Government, rather than make teachers redundant (associates do not count for him as teachers, it seems), has offered a new programme to hire quality talent. Yes, the second phase of the famous Serra Húnter, a programme designed to bring in OUTSIDE talent with contracts rather than tenure as civil servants (what I ‘enjoy’).
Today’s blog entry is an exercise in media literacy, see how you do. I’m using the Generalitat’s own press note (http://premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/AppJava/notapremsavw/detall.do?id=139443&idioma=0). This claims that in the next 10 years, Catalan universities will incorporate 1,000 new teachers. A few lines later, this is corrected to 8 years, until 2020. The Serra Húnter programme was implanted in 2003 with the Llei d’Universitats de Catalunya (LUC). The idea, the brainchild of current Finance Counsellor Andreu Mas Colell, was to create “un cos docent universitari propi, més flexible i de major excel•lència, per superar la cotilla imposada pel model funcionarial espanyol.” Part of LUC was also the creation of the ‘Lector’ (4-5 years contract) and ‘Agregat’ (indefinite) figures for the same purpose: to have a firmer hold on Catalan universities and avoid the (political) dependence on the Spanish tenure system. Ask ‘Lectors’ and ‘Agregats’ what’s happening to them: the former are being told their contracts might not be renewed even when they have an ‘Agregat’ accreditation, and the ‘Agregats’ are often being invited to get an accreditation as ‘Profesor Titular’ from ANECA (the Spanish agency) and pass a state examination to become Spanish civil servants. End of part one.
Serra Húnter aims at incorporating international talent and there’s no way I can be against it… as an additional or reinforcement programme, and not as the one and only way to hire new teachers (or rather, to give tenure to those who have already been working for Catalan universities for more than 10 years). Have a look at the same piece of news, this time from the UAB website (http://www.uab.es/servlet/Satellite/noticies/detall-d-una-noticia-1090226434100.html?noticiaid=1330414961772). Here we learn that in the next 10 years 2,000 (tenured) university teachers will retire, HALF of whom will be replaced with permanent contracts, of which 50% will be Serra Húnter appointees (by the way, that’s 500 teachers, not 1,000 as Generalitat claims). So, first: we won’t be getting 1,000 MORE tenured teachers in total, but 1,000 FEWER. 500 of the lost 1,000 tenured teaching positions will be covered with temporary contracts (= associates, who are NOT teachers, remember?, and can be fired at will). If you do the maths, in the next 10 years the Catalan universities will lose 500 tenured teachers; 500 more will be replaced with associates; 500 will be Serra Húnter positions with terminable contracts and only 500 MIGHT be tenured, most likely by the Spanish Government.
UAB also informs that additional figures will be created for teaching and research support, that is to say, that pre-doctoral and post-doctoral scholarship holders will be given some extra money for doing these jobs. Always, of course, less money than even the worst-paid associate would get (and how many scholars does the Catalan Government think we have?). To cap this, UAB informs that with all these measures implemented we’ll ‘keep’ the current 1/10 teacher-student ratio that ensures the ‘quality levels of personalised attention required by the development of the EEES plans’.