The Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) rejects the new model of the Ministry for grants and financial aid for students
June 20, 2013
The rectors publish a report on the project of Royal Decree that modifies the criteria for the assignment of grants to students
Report of the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) on the Project of Royal Decree (henceforth "RD") by means of which new thresholds of income and family state are set for the assignment of grants and financial aid for students during the 2013-2014 academic course, and which partially modifies the Royal Decree 1721/2007, dated December 21, which in turn stipulates the regulations for the assignment of personalized grants and financial aid for students
First and foremost, we regret the absence of dialogue between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECD) and the universities regarding the new approach of the RD for grants, despite having made the corresponding formal requests. Furthermore, we regret the lack of communication in this matter, as we have been informed of the RD by a report leaked by the press, without having prior knowledge of even what goals it would have.
Without engaging in a detailed analysis, or entering in technical and management trifles, as important as they may be in themselves, we want to outline the main issues that the CRUE finds in this draft of the RD.
The application of the new academic requirements in conjunction with the change of the model for the assignment of financial aid may lead to an excluding and dissuasive effect, both for the access to the university and for the continuation of already-started studies. This directly contradicts what is established in the prologue of the RD, which cites the constitutional obligation of guaranteeing equality in the access to higher education. It goes against the most vulnerable groups, who are in danger of being excluded, and from whom it is demanded a much greater effort than from the rest of the students. In other words, greater performance is expected from those who have less resources and possibilities.
Even if we share the philosophy of positively rewarding those students who do better, we believe that by no means should grants, which have a helpful nature as an instrument for social integration and promotion, be confused with the prizes for academic excellence. One groups should not exclude the other, and the system can, and must, be able to recognize both.
The general reduction of the amount and components of the grants, the reduction of the economic thresholds and the tightening of the academic requirements prevent many students from accessing these grants. These factors will also produce a remarkable number of students who are close to finishing their Degrees, but who will abandon their studies, generating an unwanted inefficiency in the university system (especially for the public one).
Moreover, the RD will generate an enormous isse for those students who currently hold a mobility grant by substituting the previous specific component of "residence of the student during the academic year" for a much lesser fixed amount. Furthermore, we consider that this reduction in the amount of the grants will create a localist effect, which is essentially against the ideal of student mobility that supports the European Higher Area of Education. On the other hand, students who live in rural or urban areas without a university will be tremendously affected, as it will be much more difficult for them to access the university.
The formula employed to calculate the variable amount of the grant (apart from having formal errors) clearly violates the principle of legal security, since students will not know the amount that they are assigned until the academic course is virtually over, which, undoubtedly, will in turn make those students who have fewer resources or who have to move away from their homes think twice before enroling at the university. Fixed amounts do not guarantee the continuity of the university studies of students with low income, and the limitation of the variable amount of the budgetary availability does not guarantee the access to the grants by the most vulnerable people.
The policies for grants must be considered as a future investment for the Spanish society, and a guarantee of equality and social progress for the people with fewer resources. The path that Spain took in the 1980's, and which it has continuously walked since then, independently from the political tint of the government, has been a point of reference for the European university system, and is frequently used as an example of a country with equality that provides its people with fewer resources the possibilities they need to succeed.
We are deeply disturbed by the application of this RD, which, if approved, would seriously debilitate the social role of higher education in Spain, especially if we take into account that we are still far away from the average of the OCDE in terms of investment in grants in relation to the GDP.
In consequence, we reject this model presented as a project of RD.
In any case, and once again, we reiterate our offer and disposition for collaborating with all the initiatives of the MECD that may positively affect the Spanish university system and, especially, the students. We maintain our commitment to dialog for studying any possible change to the system of grants, so that it meets the constitutional obligation of erasing the inequality in the access to higher education.