Tagged in: Catalonia

Catalan News Agency – Institut Ramon Llull optimistic about future collaboration with Balearic Islands and Valencia

Barcelona (ACN).- The Institut Ramon Llull (IRL) is a public body in charge of promoting Catalan culture and language abroad. On Thursday, “it expressed optimism for the first time” about a collaboration with the new Governments of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, both led by left-wing coalitions. The Director of the institute, Àlex Susanna, said that, following the May 2015 elections, “positive signs” are emerging but still could not confirm any conclusive agreement. According to him, the new political landscape opens a “great opportunity” to promote the international mobility of artists and intellectuals from Catalan-speaking territories. Asked about the new Head of Barcelona City Council – part of the consortium constituting the institute – Susanna said that he foresees “continuity” with the work of previous local Executives. Finally, the Director expressed his hope for the Institut to keep playing a key role in the Catalan capital’s internationalisation that new Mayor Ada Colau aims to promote.

The Institut Ramon Llull is a consortium comprising the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council, with foreign offices in New York, Berlin, London and Paris. Originally founded by the Autonomous Governments of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands in 2002, the collaboration between the two was interrupted twice during the institution’s life, firstly in 2004, and later in 2012, when the Balearic Popular Party-led Government broke its ties with the public body again after a 4-year return (between 2008 and 2012).

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Eco-villages in Catalonia: the rise of new green models in times of crisis

Barcelona (ACN).- An increasing number of people are fed up with living in concrete jungles. Many think of the countryside as a solution to problems such as stress, a low-paying job and pollution. Due to the start of the economic crisis, this phenomenon boomed, with people beginning to look for an ‘alternative way of life’ or, at least, new opportunities. Catalonia and the whole of Spain are no exception to this. Here, moving (back) to the countryside nowadays looks like an attractive option to many, especially to young unemployed graduates. However, sustainable agriculture initiatives and the like are the ‘junior division’ compared to more complex social, cultural and ecological experiments: the eco-villages. Coming in different shapes and sizes, their members share resources and spaces, grow their own food and cover in a sustainable way the energy demand of the buildings they live in. With different missions and features, many eco-villages can be traced back to one or two decades ago and could teach a lot to newcomers.

In Catalonia, people started thinking of the countryside as an alternative between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, when the first sustainable agriculture initiatives began, explains University of Barcelona’s Professor Maria Àngels Alió. “Nowadays, many young people born in small villages move to big cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, London or Paris. When some of them complete their degrees, they realise the city has few opportunities to offer them and decide to go back to their places of origin”, she states. “As opposed to their parents – who went to the city to study and remained there after finding a stable job – they go back to the countryside. Some of them do it in an alternative way, as being a traditional farmer in the current context of industrial agriculture is not interesting to them”, Professor Alió concludes.

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Bachelor’s degrees to last 3 years instead of 4: new university reform stirs Catalan students’ anger

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.

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