1.1 The educational offer
In recent years, the map of Catalan university degrees, with the definitive implantation of courses regulated by the so-called Bologna Process, has undergone considerable change due to the introduction of undergraduate and master’s degrees, the phasing out of cycle (or pre-European Higher Education Area -EHEA-) degrees and the creation of doctoral schools in response to the implantation of such programmes.
In the last five years, the number of undergraduate and doctoral degrees has stabilised, while master’s programmes have increased by 11%, mainly due to the appearance of qualifying master’s degrees.
The culmination of the adaptation of all universities to the EHEA process has been the fulfilment of its main goals:
Achieve a university system that is homogeneous, comparable and flexible with regard to Europe in order to facilitate international mobility.
Promote a competitive higher education system on an international scale.
Promote the European dimension of higher education through joint education and research programmes.
Promote European cooperation in terms of quality assurance.
And this has been achieved through a series of instruments that all universities have gradually adapted to:
The adoption of a system of qualifications that is easily comparable and comprehensible throughout Europe: undergraduate, master’s and doctorate.
The establishment of the same university credit system for all European countries: ECTS
The promotion of the mobility of students, lecturers and researchers.
The promotion of lifelong learning.
The establishment of homologous quality assurance systems throughout Europe, through the implementation of quality systems designed under the auspices of Quality Agencies and of different European directives.
During the period analysed in this publication, the diversity of degree courses on offer is especially notable,
with regard to class types: classroom, semi-classroom and distance,
with regard to the growing introduction of subjects or courses taught in third languages, especially in master’s degrees, where there has been 25% growth in the last five years
with regard to courses totally taught in third languages
with regard to the offer of double (simultaneous) and grouped degrees, especially in undergraduate programmes, and
with regard to the different types of international and national interuniversity programmes on offer.
Universities have established policies to strengthen external partnerships to help increase and improve the international activity of the same and of the groups involved in order to make educational activity internationally present and visible and thus attract talent and projects and recruit international students.
1.2 Student profile
The 2017-18 academic year marks ten years since the first undergraduate degrees were created at Catalan universities, thereby accomplishing one of the goals planned for the deployment of the European Higher Education Area. Since 2008-09, there has been sustained growth in enrolment for undergraduate and, above all, master’s degrees, together with the gradual phasing out of llicenciatures, diplomatures and enginyeries in a period marked by the context of international economic and financial crisis. This circumstance has conditioned the process of adapting undergraduate courses to the new degrees in terms of the availability of additional resources and the creation of new so-called emerging degrees. Nevertheless, enrolment for official university undergraduate and master’s degrees at public universities in Catalonia and the UOC has averaged 190,000 students a year over the last five years.
As for the profile of new students, of the almost 41,000 people who started a degree course in 2016-17, 29,926 did so at class-based public universities and 10,948 at the UOC. Of these, more than half are women (54%) and from different backgrounds: at public universities, 70% of newly admitted students were aged 18 or 19 years, while at the UOC, 63% of the new students were in the 25 to 45 age bracket.
The same dichotomy occurs en in terms of entrance methods. Students applying to enter class-based public universities mostly do so after passing PAU university entrance examinations (78%). At the UOC, on the other hand, most students have previously taken courses and degrees in other subjects (45%), with a significant number of people that have already begun university studies.
1.3 Profile of teaching staff
There are 17,014 members of teaching and research staff (PDI) at Catalan public universities, of which 41% are women and, in total, 63% are doctors. There are 11,404 full-time equivalent lecturers, of which 63% are tenured and 31% are adjunct. By ages, more than 60% of staff are in the 41 to 60 years age bracket. More specifically, 32% are aged 41 to 50 years and 30% are aged 51 to 60 years.
Meanwhile, the number of researchers has increased by 27.9% and the number of predoctoral researchers has fallen by 10.5%.
The quality of the teaching and research work done by these staff members is assessed and recognised by teaching and research merits. In 2017, an average of 1.9 research or teaching premiums per staff member were assessed, which is 52% higher than in 2013. In the case of research merits, an average of 2.30 premiums were assessed in 2017, 16% more than in 2013, and 67.93% of staff had research premiums, out of those members of teaching and research staff that are able to have one.
1.4 Doctorate studies
Universities have many mechanisms for forging relations with companies that enable collaboration in strategic research that has an impact on the social and economic development of the country. One of these formulas is through industrial PhDs, which links a doctorate programme with a company or institution’s research project in order to undertake research in a dual environment: business and academic. From 2012 to 2017, 286 programmes have been held involving 352 businesses and 404 students.
Also note the increase in the number of students enrolled for the doctorate programmes offered by Catalan public universities and the high number of doctors that have entered the work force. The employment rate is between 88% and 96% depending on the different areas of knowledge, of which more than 50% are in jobs related with their doctorate studies.
1.5 Funding of education. Grants and subsidies
In recent years, universities have had fewer resources, which has had a heavy impact on staffing, investment in teaching and research, and university infrastructures. Nevertheless, Catalan public universities have continued to maintain and even improve their results, as shown in Catalan and Spanish statistics and their position in international rankings.
The reason for this qualitative improvement lies in the strong commitment of the university community to improving the provision of a public service of strategic importance to the country, more than ever in times of social and economic crisis, based on the shared efforts and collaboration of the university system as a whole. The Catalan Government, which had significantly increased its funding of public universities from 2003 to 2010, introduced cuts during the worst years of the crisis, from 2011 to 2013, with an decrease proportional to other publicly funded sectors. Since 2014, this decline has been halted and there have even been some partial improvements.
In parallel, the cuts in public funding have meant that families have faced major difficulties coping with the significant increase in fees, which are higher in Catalonia than in other regions of Spain. This increase in fees has been partially offset by the increase in grants and financial aid in Catalonia, promoted by the Catalan government with resources from the same universities supported by the increase in enrolment fees. Data shows that students at Catalan public universities obtain fewer resources from central government as a proportion of the total student population at Catalan universities when compared with students at Spanish universities.