Since 2007, we face another endemic capitalist crisis, where after the profit rates slump it caused, yet one more time in history, the deviation of funds towards a financial and real estate speculative bubble. The government’s reactions of various different European countries have in a reiterative way encouraged measures inspired in “the end of times” and “the knowledge society”, which its ultimately the perpetuation of an unsustainable system that sustains inequalities worldwide.
At the educational level it is now commonplace to encourage the unambiguous relationship between the educational systems in general, and the universities in particular, and the productive system we criticize. This is being carried out by the Bologna Process, which consists upon a number of university reforms that are being imposed in 46 countries within and outside the European Union. In Spain, it has being carried out by the “Ley Organica de Universidades”; the royal decrees approved last year and the University Strategy 2015.
Regarding the present situation, students who have fought against the previous university reform have come together in order to take positive action towards the university we want in order to fight against it with as much legitimacy as possible. The considerations that we present here are based on the consensus from reunions that took place from February 16th to until the 18th, 2010 in the main public universities of Madrid.
We consider that the university should not be subordinated to the capitalist and neo-liberal dogmas destined to reproduce the status quo. We believe it must be autonomous institution with a transforming vocation. A university must be a place where debate and criticism of the current production system is fostered so as to function as a tool for social change.
We acknowledge that the University is a centre for developing and forming, but we reject the formation given. We think that any type of knowledge is beneficial to society, regardless of its productivity for the market. Similarly, the education received must be of quality; universities should produce mediocre adults neither for the labour system nor for the cognitive one.
Instead of a university subordinated to the production system we advocate for a university where many definitions of university are accepted. A university where students can be formed and prepared for jobs; where it is possible to obtain knowledge for pleasure or to transform society.
How would the university we want look like?
We criticize the power, control, and authoritarian structures that are reproduced and sustained in the University. We must view certain mechanisms, such as, surveillance cameras, mandatory assistance, in-depth demand of work, an academia with excessive control and authority, as resulting in all forms of discrimination like gender, class, age and others.
“Bologna” restricts the scope of knowledge and the students end up becoming a sterile recipient of competition practices (highly valued in the labour world); they become an infantilized person, alienated and passive. It involves learning techniques that limit the freedom and the plethora of thought, something that has been continuously revoked from us since the early schooling system. It results in an individualist, solitary and impotent student facing the world around him or her.
University offers the space that conduces us to reflect upon the educational system, about the manner in which classes and content are taught. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the entire society to be involved in the development of the educational system that exists today.
Autonomy and Resources
We reject the inherent presence of firms in the decision making process of the university, which today functions under a social counsel. We consider that decisions must be taken inside the university and be based y a horizontal and participative structure. We consider that the current representative and delegate system is inefficient and insufficiently democratic.
The university must guarantee the access to education to every social class; it must act as a tool of wealth redistribution. It must foster initiatives that build an educational system bottom to top through direct democratic participation. We affirm the concept of a popular University with a redistribution quality, while it encourages the further initiates of self-management from with the university community. Specifically, we refer to the seminars and projects constructed with the foundation that will help generate criticism and thought within the institution.
Evaluation and Methodologies in Class
Is it about measuring the value and merit of the students or their potential productivity for the market?
Bologna brings a comprehensive evaluation scheme that leaves no free time to students, its controls them inside and outside the classrooms. The model to be applied functions through internships that are commonly unrelated to the pedagogical functions and they limit the creativity of both the student and the professor. It is a reflection of the authoritative and sophisticated ways the institution manages to implement a series of dogmatic and inconsiderate procedures with productive and mercantile interests looked after. Consequently, the student is forced to take upon a very perverse role, with less time to socialize and develop activities within the university.
We assume the importance of flexible and plural methodologies, less authoritative and more participative, in which the collective knowledge is also taken into consideration. Each type of knowledge produces a particular context, it is therefore impossible to generalize and standardize models (by it for practical or theoretical reasons). We advocate the participation and interaction of students regarding the decision process of how they are to be evaluated through a constructive dialogue in order to obtain knowledge in the best conditions.
There must be a clear understanding of the gender, social, power structures and other types of discrimination, so as to avoid them when classes are being designed and taught.
Within the university learning mechanisms there is no possibility to recognize neither practicum nor internships. Having to pay to work is a form of exploitation that results absurd for the development and education of a student. Internships are usually improvised and the work demanded is precarious. They take away time from learning and advance the uncritical, passive and servile participation in the labour market. Furthermore, it fosters the existence of precarious and underpaid jobs.
We assumed that the decisions taken by the students about their studies should be subjected to their experience and their previous knowledge. Therefore, it would be interesting to involve the students that are already certified and have more experience in the planning of the teaching guides and the study plans. There should be efficient and effective ways for this, beyond the current precarious student representation.
Every knowledge is politicized and sociohistorically located; for this reason the education must be critic and with social perspectives. We believe in an education that offers a creative, interpretive and critical knowledge, (in relation also to the articulation of different perspectives and interdisciplinary). However, Bologna objective, instead, is to offers the abilities to put in practice this knowledge to professional field.
We shouldn’t promote a university model where the students only look forward a certificate in order to find a job. The University is much more than that: we claim for a decent university education that dignifies knowledge. It should be critical and reflective, so that we can tackle the complex world in where we live and we could take the tools to transform it deeply.
We don’t considered necessary the control or punishment to the teachers. It’s about depth studies, rigorous and totally public to present the students opinion about the University, the classes and the teachers. Not a single test or application of external criteria (of the ANECA, for example) outside the university community. We should take into account the different realities of each university and not simplifying the way to improve them and questioning the excesses of authority in the classroom.
Mechanisms which make visible the hidden curricula of teachers should be in place. We are fully aware of the high level of corruption in most departments at the public universities, favouritism and nepotism that has marked professional relations and the unquestioned and dominant power of the professors. The Bologna reform is kept entirely separate from these problems and has created a rating agency that is only a drill to reproduce and re-legitimize power relations.
We also stress the need to combat the plight of the majority of teachers in terms of economic stability and employment Rights. We understand that this may involve a significant selection to establish the ideal conditions to teach and, therefore, to learn.
The scholarship scheme
The current grant system doesn’t compensate the barriers, caused by structural problems that are imposed to enter in the University. The repayable grants are insufficient and limited. The loan scholarships mortgage the situation of the students and increase social inequalities; labour scholarship is a form of exploitation and promotion of insecurity job from the State.
In response, we demand a popular university that guarantees free access to the entire population without taking into account socio-economic or cultural conditions.
First, the grants system should ensure the accessibility of most vulnerable social sectors (the threshold 1). In addition, individuals with income located in the upper quintiles should not receive financial aid with the objective of concentrating the allocation of scholarships to disadvantaged backgrounds. In this regard, we reject the excellence scholarships because it doesn’t reward effort as much as some socio-economic factors. We believe that other alternative systems should be created to encourage the efforts. Also, the level of grants awarded must give at least the minimum wage.
The Fellowships Control Centre must operate in a fully democratic way with the students’ participation. This will ensure compliance about grants allocation and ensure that it would be a tool against inequality. This organism may establish measures to ensure that grants are used by students to study and fit their needs. Finally, the Social Councils should not mediate in the endowment of any scholarship, or in setting the criteria for this.
Finally, we believe merit compensation is a way to feed the existing inequalities due to society and the system we live in. Not all students have the same socio-economic conditions to develop their academic capabilities.
An alternative system to the private patenting
We criticize the private intellectual property system governing the existing production and distribution of knowledge.
We reject the private funding of universities and the use of university research for the enrichment by the companies through patents. We believe that the results of university research should be managed by universities as a whole. Such management should follow the operation of creative commons license, which involve the use of the licenses in social intervention projects, development and research by non-profit, public and self-managed organizations. The possible transfer of these licenses to profit companies would respond to the mission of it.
The student as a political
The University must create mechanisms and conditions to encourage participation, reflection and criticism in all areas of their institution. Horizontal participation tools in the university political life: class meetings, spokesmen, rotating delegation… Conditions based on the increased availability of knowledge and free time to devote to extracademic life. The socialization outside the demand for productivity is essential to university life, for reasons of imagination and reflection. Only that will enable the existence of active, critics and politicians students.
It’s essential that students recognize their common interests in a plurality of identities and recognition in a struggle to claim them. This view may make many of the conflicts in society. The students’ struggle is part of a broader battle. The struggles that occur in society are part of the student struggle and would like to echo of them.
Relationship between the University and Society
This issue led to a debate that arose many questions about the involvement of society in the governance of the university, what kind of society has to take part in the formation of public participation.
The actual capitalist society, utilitarian and commercial, make us reflect about the influence that the University could do and about the possibility of the full autonomy of it as a possible way to avoid exclusive development of some logical and nurturing more critical stance. In turn, we discussed the orientation of the University to satisfy the social needs and the realization of its objectives necessarily imbued in the social issues.
In this complex debate we reflect about whether or not we want a “social council”, trying to outline who, how and for what and what other alternative channels could be set up in order to link the university and the society and if this relationship is considered necessary or essential. Note that there is an importance debate about the influence of the University on the Society and the other way around.
This last point provides helpful suggestions lines to invite discussion that enrich and reflect.
This paper covers many of the conclusions we reached from our different points of view. There are many issues discussed already. It’s an open text, full of horizons and vanishing lines, but without forgetting the importance of identifying concrete steps that can be applied today. It’s also a plural text that combines different positions (and even contradictory) to address the complex society we aim to transform. It is, finally, a critical text, which is facing the current situation of the University as well as procedures being carried out in its reform. We rebelled against the situation of the universities and these lines are our way of saying “no!” building an alternative. It’s our aspirations and demands, which give light to the image of a University more fair and ours.
Bolonia Fucking up Group