I have heard many voices explaining that the cost of the MAs we established barely 5 years ago is too high for the Catalan university to maintain. I could not quite understand this as our now dying MA ‘Advanced English Studies: Literature and Culture’ (slashed for having less than 10 students) cost more or less the same in terms of teaching resources as our old Doctoral courses. A friend in the Philosophy Department, where they seem to have more alert minds but whose MA has been also slashed, nonetheless, has explained to me why this is happening. Here it is, for your benefit. Apologies to those who already know for my usual thickness.
MAs are taught by doctors, of course, which means that the more senior staff may use up to 25% of their teaching time for them. This absorption of resources by the second cycle leaves the first cycle, the new BAs, with fewer resources provided by senior teachers. The result? Associates are hired to teach anything and everything, particularly considering, in my own Department, the sudden increase in numbers in the first year, due to the establishment of combined degrees with other ‘philologies’. Our staff this year comprises one third senior teachers (tenured or under contracts lasting at least 4 years), two thirds associates, most of them on a yearly, provisional basis linked to the deployment of the Bologna-style BAs, some already doctors.
Now, take our now declining MA (we’re in the fourth, final year). It is very cheap if you consider that it only requires 8 teachers teaching 5 ECTS credits each (24 teaching hours), plus dissertation supervision value at an extra 5 hours (maximum 0.5 dissertations each teacher, so far). If you look at it this way, and consider that the number of students we’ve been teaching was the same as in the old Doctoral programme (around 7-8 new ones every year), the cost has not really increased. Now, if you put the 8 subjects we teach together, this amounts to 2 full time teachers (here we teach 4 semestral subjects each per year), or 2.5 associates (they teach 3 semestral subjects a year). Dismantle the MA and you have magically made room for 8 other semestral groups in the BA taught by senior teachers (54 hours each, by the way). At least two of the 5 associates we employ now in the Literature section (with only 6 seniors…) can be ‘released.’
What irks is that the Generalitat is not openly acknowledging this. Instead, we’re told that the MAs have intrinsic problems due to low registration figures (regardless, by the way, of the nature of each of them) because we don’t know how to offer attractive, market-oriented degrees. Of course, an MA degree is a requirement to enter a Doctoral programme and with fewer MAs in Catalonia, we’ll necessarily have fewer Doctoral students which, I suspect, is very much another unacknowledged ultimate aim. Fewer doctors also mean fewer accreditations and fewer employable university teachers, which will help reduce the size of the staff at PUBLIC universities in Catalonia. The rich, as a friend reminded me, do not care about this, as they send their kids to private or foreign universities, anyway.
Think, think… I personally feel as a dinosaur on the verge on extinction – Angloliteraturus redundantis.