Barcelona (CNA).- In times of shrinking public funding, increasing university fees and stricter requirements for obtaining a scholarship, a controversial new university reform has been approved by the Spanish Government. On 30 January 2015, the so-called “flexibilisation” of Bachelor’s degrees or the “3+2” system was introduced, provoking a wave of protests and criticism across the university community. The new reform allows universities to choose an undergraduate programme length that ranges from 3 to 4 years, abandoning the 4-year duration scheme adopted comprehensively in 2010. Then, a one- or two-year Master’s will follow. Many fear that it will devaluate undergraduate degrees, obliging students to undertake a Master’s in order to find a decent job. Moreover, as postgraduate tuition fees are substantially higher, some think that the overall price of university education for students’ families is likely to rise, pushing the Spanish university system towards the US model. Among other popular arguments against the reform are: the alleged lack of democratic discussion on the new text, the temporal proximity of the previous reform and the potential increase in disorder within the system. However, the reform’s supporters claim that it will favour students’ international mobility and mutual diploma recognition, bringing Catalonia closer to Europe.
About 300 students took to the streets of downtown Barcelona
On 24 March, anti-capitalist students’ union Sindicat d’Estudiants (SE) and pro-free public education students’ association Front Estudiantil Unitari (FEU) organised a protest rally against the recently-approved university reform. However, it did not have the support of all the Catalan student organisations. Left-wing pro-Catalan independence students’ group Sindicat d’Estudiants dels Països Catalans (SEPC) and progressive Catalonia-based students’ union Associació de Joves Estudiants de Catalunya (AJEC) chose not to participate. The former did so out of criticism for the SE for having unilaterally announced the protest and the latter chose not to participate on the grounds that the protest came so close after the recent student strike. The protest took place in the Catalan cities of Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona. Adrià Junyent, the FEU spokesperson, declared that it aimed at bringing together students and professors willing to fight for a public, high-quality university education system.