Blow to temporality in universities: 25,000 associate professors will be indefinite part-time

When Manuel Castells took command of the Ministry of Universities, he sentenced in Congress: “There are professors associated with misery salaries.” And not only because many earn between 300 and 400 euros without possible supplements, but their conditions are very unfavorable, since a large part have no other main occupation, when it is supposedly the requirement to work as an associate professor. That is why now, Minister Joan Subirats wants to include in his preliminary draft of the Organic Law of the University System (LOSU) measures that mitigate its instability, although those affected believe that it does not end with its precariousness. The most relevant provision is the one that converts 25,000 associates, who have temporary contracts, into indefinite part-time contracts. This stabilization, advanced by the Ser chain, grants workers seniority rights or the right to opt for salary supplements as a reward for their research or teaching work (three-year and six-year terms, about 100 euros each).

In this way, says the ministry, the temporality of the university system will be reduced from 40% in the workforce to 8%. The measure does not affect the 9,000 associate professors of health sciences, “they continue with temporary contracts because their places are linked to health institutions”, it is stated from the Ministry of Universities. In the first draft of Subirats it was stipulated that the teaching staff with a temporary employment contract could not exceed 20% and that the associate professorship of health sciences and the assistant professorship doctor would not be computed for this purpose.

In some doctoral assistant competitions – the first job step (not training) of the academic career – the teaching experience of the temporary teaching staff will be included as a preferential merit. In addition, the merits of research and teaching will be equated in all competitions. Associates always complain that teaching ―on many occasions they teach more class hours than the fixed staff― leaves them little time to investigate and that penalizes them when competing for a position, since scientific achievements are highly valued.

A spokesman for the ministry specifies that it will count as merit having had a teaching contract for five years out of the last seven if the weight has been relevant. University does not detail what the weight will be: “This must be decided by the universities, within the framework of their autonomy to call the competitions. The LOSU establishes that experience as an associate must be taken into account and that it cannot be a marginal criterion, but must have a relevant weight”.

120 hours of class per course

“The music sounds good, but we want to hear the lyrics of the minister live,” said Isabel de la Cruz, president of the State Association of Associate Professors of Public Universities, who believes that Brussels has forced Spain to take this measure. But the group asks Minister Subirats for clarification on certain aspects of the LOSU whose wording, in their opinion, is “quite confusing and may even be treacherous.” De la Cruz maintains that being indefinite “does not end with real temporality or with precariousness.” If the LOSU is approved, in order to stabilize those who are doctors and have been teaching classes at a faculty for some time, many places will go to a merit contest and the association fears that this will put many of them out on the street after years of practice. The rest of part-time teachers may not give more than 120 hours per course.

A third of the associate professors have not read the thesis, they are not doctors. The ministry urges universities in the LOSU project to encourage those interested to make the leap to a purely academic career with a predoctoral contract. Salaries are low in this training category, so it is difficult for the teacher to take the step if he has a main job, for example, if he is a lawyer, engineer or architect.

There are currently 4,800 more professors in Spanish universities than in the 2011-12 academic year ―from 103,907 teachers to 108,700 in 2020―, but at the cost of making staff more precarious to the extreme. The number of civil servant teachers has decreased considerably, after years of replacement at 10% of retirements (2012-2014) or 50% (2015-2016), and since 2017 at 100%: from 49,000 they have become 41,700 in 2020. This year for every 10 professors who retire, 12 will be able to enter the staff. Never before has there been such a high replacement, 120%.

In the next eight years, 53% of the staff, who are very old, will retire, so it will be a good time for this precarious teaching staff to become stable.

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