The rectors of the eight public campuses ask to recover the funding levels of 2009, 15% higher than those derived from the latest budgets
The transfers for investments and maintenance of the faculties are under minimum and lead them to save on cleaning or renovation of facilities
Catalan public universities have said enough. In a gesture without recent precedents, the rectors of the eight public campuses in Catalonia have celebrated an act of denouncing their financial situation, which they consider to be low. Not only because of cuts that have not been reversed – the transfers they receive are 15% lower than in 2019 – but also due to the lack of budgets of the Generalitat, extended since 2017, which prevent them from facing unforeseen expenses or the increase in the cost of some services, especially those that have to do with the maintenance of its facilities.
After signing a joint manifesto in July through the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the rectors transferred their discomfort due to the lack of resources to the president of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, in a meeting in which he promised to double progressively the budget in higher education in the next six years. But universities do not trust and want solutions for the 2020 budget, claiming that they are low.
Their demand, expressed this Thursday in a joint act in the Auditorium of the University of Barcelona (UB), is to return to the 922 million euros they received from the Generalitat in 2009, about 144 million euros more than the 778 million settled in 2017, year of the last approved budgets. “We are not to raise our voices, we don’t like noise, but we also don’t have the means to carry out our tasks,” Joan Elies, rector of the UB and president of the ACUP, said in a speech together to the other rectors of the UPC, UAB, UPF, UdG, UdL, URV and the semi-public UOC.
From the Secretary of Universities and Research of the Generalitat they defend that the investment for this 2019, in spite of the budgetary extension, will already be 811 million, and that by 2020 they hope to be able to inject more money to the campuses. So effective has been the protest of the rectors that, just knowing the convening of the protest act, the Vice President and Minister of Economy, Pere Aragonès, has summoned the rectors to a new meeting this Wednesday.
Despite the distrust of the rectors, from the Secretariat of Universities that Xavier Grau pilots argue that they already planned a series of improvements for the failed accounts of 2019 that could not be carried out due to lack of political agreement. Among them, 42 million more for current transfers, 9.5 million to create salary scholarships and 4.5 million to match master’s prices with those of grade.
More budget to lower rates
In addition to improving funding, the rectors have agreed to require the Government an additional 100 million to update their infrastructure and equipment and a crash plan to renew some templates, as well as reduce the price paid by students for their enrollment in Catalonia, which It ranges between 1,500 and 2,300 euros depending on the degree (almost triple that of other autonomous communities). In fact, the 144 million cuts compared to 2019 to which the rectors allude have had an impact on students and their families, which in 2012 saw how the CiU government increased the price per credit by 67% to compensate for the “general cuts” of universitiy budgets around the country.
Since then, the Secretary of Universities of the Generalitat has not touched the prices despite the fact that the Parliament has repeatedly urged it to start at least by a generalized reduction of 30% of the fees. Universities have long argued that their model goes through lowering prices only to the beneficiaries of the equity scholarships, which in different grades bring together all those people who do not exceed a family income of 48,000 euros – the families of four members.
Campus maintenance, to the limit
One of the reasons why the campuses have given the alarm is that they face real difficulties in addressing the maintenance needs of facilities that, in the case of large universities such as UB, UAB, have more than 500,000 square meter. The most lacerating situation is that of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the only one that closed 2018 with a deficit of 3.2 million that adds up to the 65 million accumulated in recent years.
In the case of this institution, which has 26,400 students, they have come to reduce cleaning costs. “The bleach goes up in price, the water also, and when you have to tender the service they tell you that it goes up 2%, but we can’t,” explains Jaume Tintoré, UAB manager. Finally, they have chosen to eliminate cleaning hours in offices and other less crowded offices than classrooms and laboratories. “If we do not change what we receive in investments, in the medium term we will have problems with buildings to the point of having to close them,” he predicts.
The rectors complain that, although wage increases have been contemplated in recent years, transfers for maintenance have not been improved. It is the so-called University Investment Plan (PIU), a concept by which the UAB receives 2.7 million euros and the UB, 5. Figures to light years of the nearly 20 million who entered both campuses for the same before cuts, and that allowed to renew research facilities, classrooms, furniture or the computer system. For this chapter, the rectors demand an increase of 100 million euros from the Generalitat.
The UAB also denounces that the lack of budgets means that all the expenses incurred have to be borne by the campuses without further assistance from the Generalitat. And it gives as an example the four million euros that will cost them to return to teachers a series of salary supplements cut in 2012 – and whose return the unions won in the courts.