Last Saturday, 21 April, the Spanish Government issued a new decree (see BOE, cheerfully called “de medidas urgentes de racionalización del gasto público en el ámbito educativo.” According to this decree, although university teachers are still supposed to teach 24 ECTS credits a year (= 4 semestral subjects), this workload may be increased or decreased, depending on the commitment to research of the said teachers.

This is measured in research assessment periods (the famous ‘tramos’): a senior lecturer (‘titular’) needs 3 to be honoured with an 8-ECTS credit reduction; a full professor (‘catedrático’) needs 4. If, no matter what rank you belong to, you have fewer ‘tramos’, then you can be asked to teach up to 32 ECTS credits. The UAB is debating these days how to apply the decree, as the schedule for next year is almost finished. Also, the figures fit badly our subjects, which are 6, 9 or 12 ECTS credits.

Here’s my personal view: I’m VERY worried, as this decree does not distinguish between teachers who simply do not do any kind of research and never have, and young/er teachers who have not had the time to accumulate 3 ‘tramos’ but who do struggle to do research and teach 24 ECTS credits (plus admin work). It’s easy to see that, if asked to teach more, our research –for I myself don’t have the magical 3 ‘tramos’– will suffer for it. In contrast, senior teachers with plenty of research to their names are privileged for that, but not really encouraged to gain a fourth or fifth ‘tramo,’ depending on the case.

I must say that I fully agree that teachers who don’t do research should have a greater workload. 30 or 32 ECTS credits seems right. To begin with, I’ve never understood why the university tolerates that some teachers –including professors who got tenure before ‘tramos’ were established back in 1982 (I think)– do no research whatsoever. Since, however, they are tolerated, then it is obvious that as these teachers have more time in their hands than us, researchers, they should either teach more or run all the admin in the Department. I know this might irk some colleagues but I’d really like to know on what they spend the time that we researchers use for, well, research. I know that my life would be relatively stress-free if I only taught my classes.

Using research assessment periods as the measuring rod is both clever and perverse. As they are notoriously hard to get, many (young/er) teachers will consider whether they’re worth the effort in comparison to teaching an extra subject; they might even decide to give up research altogether. This will indeed help the Government save money, as they’ll have to pay for fewer ‘tramos’ and there will be also fewer candidates, in the case of senior lecturers, to apply for tenure as full professors. Not to mention the savings in staff, as fewer teachers will suffice. In any case, with increased fees (also itemised in the decree), we’ll have fewer students –ironically, we might not need to teach 32 ECTS credits at all!

Finally, if the Department in question has enough resources (and students), there will be no need to force researchers to teach 32 ECTS credits, but if that’s not the case, the fight will be hard. If, suppose, I get my third ‘tramo’ and demand to teach 16 ECTS credits –it would be stupid of me not to do so– someone else will have to teach the 8-credit difference. That is to say: one of my colleagues will be ‘punished’ for my (supposed) efficiency even though s/he might be a better researcher than myself but just younger or less fortunate when applying for ‘tramos’. Tough luck…

I forgot to say that, with the new UAB regulations, credits are combined with the number of students in class, so that my 6 credits for the first-year subject Literatura del s. XX (92 students registered) amount actually to 10, whereas my 6 credits for the MA subject Postmodern Textualities and Sexualities (5 students) count as just 4’5 credits. Teachers working in the first and second year might end up, thus, teaching the equivalent of 50 ECTS; those in the fourth year and the MA less than 10.

How this rationalizes anything is beyond me. Deep sigh… multiplied by 32.


  1. Very honest. It’s ashaming the way things work at the University. It seems as if the system perpetuates the power of the ones who had the chance to live a better economical era and clearly punish and reject those who, supposedly with the same rights, try to find their place in the academic world.

    I personally think that teachers who don’t want to do research should teach more hours. In any case, I can’t conceive someone working at university without doing research at all. Shame on them!

  2. As there is a requirement that you must not only have a number of positive assessment periods but also you should have the last one too, there’s no telling what will happen from now on… perhaps there will be less and less people getting their latest period, and having to teach 32 credits while having three positive evaluations… in the past. The regulation seems to have been done in a hurry and without much flexibility. A good critique, one has to agree with your position!

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