In the act of transferring portfolios from the Ministry of Universities, the focus should be on the incoming minister, Joan Subirats, but the outgoing (Manuel Castells) took away part of the leading role -to praise him- with his account of his arrival in office in January 2019 as a share of the commons in the coalition government. “There are seeds that can reform the Spanish University and for that I do not think there is a better minister than Professor Joan Subirats,” said the sociologist who is leaving for health reasons. “You are an authority that has long influenced politicians and academics … When the mayor [de Barcelona, Ada Colau] He told me if he agreed to be proposed to the President of the Government to assume the portfolio of Universities I told him: ‘Well, if necessary, but look, the truth is, there is someone much better for this than is Joan Subirats’. And she told me: ‘Yes, I agree, but I will not leave it to anyone, it is mine, I absolutely need it for the management of Barcelona, ”Castells said amid the laughter of those present at the event. And so I became a minister. But then Joan made a fundamental mistake in her life because when she retired the ban was opened and obviously she arrived here ”. Subirat was number two on Colau’s electoral list for the Barcelona City Council and is an ideological reference for the Catalan left.
Subirats began his speech this Monday by recalling how his two older brothers had to go to work when they were 14 years old and he became the first university student in the family. And he has had a memory for the former Socialist Minister of Culture Jordi Solé Turá, who directed his thesis and offered him a position as an assistant professor.
The new minister has made it clear that he is not going to swerve in the negotiation of the organic law of the university system, which is being drawn up: “What this ministry has done, and can continue to do, is to launch an ambitious regulatory program that transforms the University and from this base we have to advance ”. But he has also made it clear that he is willing to negotiate: “Society is not changed by decree, therefore, I cannot imagine that the University is going to change it by decree. The law has to make a positive effort so that the set of initiatives that we take help to improve the role of the University ”.
Subirats is concerned that the University, an ancient institution, “is not left out of the change” that society is experiencing. On the contrary, he believes that it should play “a significant role in this transformative process.” It is necessary to “face highly complex challenges that generate fear and uncertainties,” he said, not only in healthcare but “in the social sphere of inequality that is increasingly being observed,” the climate emergency and technological change that generates doubts in the job. The attributions of the ministry are limited and Subirats does not forget: “our role is not going to be to solve all problems, it is evident, but to promote and help the universities and the territories in which they are”.
All the Podemos ministers – Alberto Garzón, Ione Belalcázar and Irene Montero – attended the event, led by Vice President Yolanda Díaz. And on the socialist side, the two ministers with whom Subirats shares powers have attended: Pilar Alegría, of Education, and Diana Morant, of Science. Faced with the deployment of ministers, unusual since they tend to divide for appointments at the same time, very few rectors and members of the university community attended the event.
No major changes to the team
Although the leadership team of the ministry has not been officially reaffirmed in its positions, it is expected that there will be no major changes. So Subirats will keep José Manuel Pingarrón, the Secretary General for Universities and former vice-rector of the Complutense University, in his post, which Castells renamed despite pressure from Podemos, who was seeking a more political profile; and Marta Cruells, the chief of staff, will follow, with whom the minister has shared a job at the Barcelona City Council when she was a councilor (Feminisms and International Relations) and he was on the Culture Commissioner.
The president of the conference of rectors (CRUE), José Carlos Villamandos, acknowledges that they feel comfortable with that team with which they have been negotiating for two years. The CRUE refused in mid-November to issue a mandatory opinion on the university law, considering that the project was not closed but, nevertheless, it has been very conciliatory in the dismissal of Castells. “Thanks to everyone’s contribution, the collapse of the course was avoided in the harshest months of the health crisis,” the conference said in a note.
“I do not know Minister Subirats, but the references are good. That he is a very intelligent, negotiating and open person. Let’s hope we have a good relationship, “says Gómez Villamandos. In his opinion, the university bill “is in a situation that does not convince any agent.” “Maybe concrete reforms can be made to the LOMLOU [Ley Orgánica de Modificación de la Ley Orgánica de Universidades]”, Proposes Gómez Villamandos. The unions, for their part, are especially concerned that a Statute for Research Teaching Personnel is approved rather than the law.
The rough edges with the students, however, do not seem to be smoothed out. The two groups that negotiate with the ministry – CEUNE and CREUP – have asked Subirats to negotiate the university law from scratch. The minister does not seem for the work. The deadline to speak ends at the beginning of February if the terms are not altered with the change in the portfolio.
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