ONE MORE SLAP IN THE FACE: THE GENERALITAT ANNOUNCES THE DOWNSIZING OF THE TENURED STAFF IN CATALAN UNIVERSITIES

I grab a coffee to start my day, sit in front of the TV to watch the news for a few minutes and this hits me in the face: the Generalitat announces plans to cut from 70% down to 40% the percentage of tenured staff in Catalan universities (see https://www.3cat24.cat/noticia/1225786/barcelones/El-govern-vol-reduir-en-un-30-els-professors-universitaris-amb-placa-fixa).

First, I panic thinking they’ll dare fire tenured teachers like me. What is announced is, rather, that on retirement only half the tenured teachers will be replaced; if they are replaced at all it’ll be by hired teachers. But, hang on a minute: this is not news at all. It has been happening for the last few years, apparently the fat cow ones. And 70%, where would this figure come from? My own university, UAB, let it spill recently that the figure was 50%, which is what I see in my own Department, increasingly staffed with easy-to-fire associate teachers. The only thing that is news, therefore, is that this covert policy of reducing tenured staff down to a minimum is now overt. News, indeed…

Logically, the fewer tenured teachers are replaced, the bigger the workload for those of us trapped between happy retirees and unhappy young associates who might never be tenured. I guess this is why the UAB passed a rule stating that classes should be above 140 in order to be split into two groups. We haven’t seen these enormous classes in our Department but the way we’re going we’re bracing ourselves for the worst. Fancy applying continuous assessment to 140 students… we’ll have to go back for sure to cut and dry lecturing, with final exams. And I’ll insist again that while teaching standards might perhaps be maintained with fewer tenured teachers by switching back to passé methodologies, research will suffer the most for it. Of course, that might be part of the plan, for without time for research, fewer people will be qualified for tenured positions and fewer tenured teachers will apply for professorships.

We’ll go back to the 1980s, when we were routinely told that only foreign universities could offer quality teaching and research. We all made this gigantic effort to put Catalan universities on the map and start attracting foreign students and now, what? Will this absurd, mismanaged crisis sweep away 20 years of continued efforts?

I should grab my sleeping bag, and join the indignant crowds on Plaça Catalunya…

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