The Spanish government influences universities. In Spain, higher education has two different models. State (public), which is somehow free, although students have to pay a registration fee every year (not tuition), and Private, which again have two different approaches: purely private, the ones for profit-making managed by civic society, and a not-for-profit, mainly Catholic Universities. In Spain (Public High Education), the State pays around 6000€/year for each university student. The students pay approx. 1.100€ /year. There are also university scholarships for students with low-income families. The government had established an official National Agency (ANECA), which accredits the different degrees and postgraduate titles sent by Universities.
There are some minimum common guidelines (60 ECTS per year, four years per Degree; 60 for a Master) and about some common ground courses. There are expert committees (formed by Professors and a member of the Agency) that evaluate and approve the degrees/postgrads. They can make suggestions about content. Once approved, there is a revision every 5-10 years. The review is mainly if the declared issues match with reality. Public universities tend to have a longer history of research, have higher percentages of PhDs among their academic staff, and a higher level of publications. They also have access to public aid that is not accessible to private universities, as is the case of Madrid City Council’s university Service-Learning program.
On the other hand, private universities tend to have good connections with the professional sector (e.g., good internship agreements) and offer more personalized training (a closer link between professor and student is assumed). As for Catholic universities, they usually have identity-based subjects in their academic programs. Apart from that, Universities can choose teaching methods and additional courses and complementary diplomas. Regional Authorities can also influence to some extent. Civil society universities are very few in Spain, mainly catholic oriented and elitist. Very good in teaching, but with a lack of research (improving). They are mission-driven, and some are proselytizing.
Regarding Service-Learning, it seems more implication or interest for service learning issues on private Universities, but a relevant impulse for Service-Learning has been already a leader by Madrid City Hall, by singing a convention or agreement with the eight public Universities of Madrid to foster Service-Learning in this Convention’s framework.
University Rectors and Manuela Carmena, Mayor of Madrid. (July, 2017)
Each of these public Universities of Madrid has created its Service-Learning office that will facilitate the formation, the implementation, the relation between the university and different institutions or organizations. The City Hall will finance these activities, including the hiring of an expert to do this work. If Service-Learning would be described in the curriculum as a methodological strategy, it could have more presence at the universities. The value of diversity in the political language, but society tends to simplify and homogenize groups. Despite this, at Universidad Complutense de Madrid we are moving towards Design for All People that implies a change of look and action, proposing beyond the curricular adaptations for groups or groups, personalized education that allows us to adjust to the needs of each person in its development, learning, and participation. The social entities have supported the change of regulations, adapted responses, varied resources.
Educational tradition in Spain concerns that every applicant has to hold a high school degree and pass a national examination. Due to university overcrowding, the grade obtained in this exam allows students to choose the degree among State universities (in a grade-ranked basis). For the rest of the universities (private/civil society), a student must pass the exam but each university has its admission criteria and tests, sometimes tighter, sometimes softer). The educational approach in Spain is mainly traditional. The professor (lecturer) teaches in a loud voice, with the base in readings and cases, and students take notes. There is some research in books and papers (flipped classroom) and sometimes some “practices” inside the classroom, which are more likely examples or mini-cases.Nevertheless, things are changing and depend much more on the discipline taught and, of course, of the University. In Spain, there are more than 80 universities with roughly 1.600.000 students (degree). Postgraduate teaching is more problem solving oriented and or uses case methodology. But also the methodological tradition has been changing when the European Higher Education Framework was established. The new tradition has been based on the problem-solving, case study, cooperative work, debates, tics inclusion in teaching programs, and assessment by portfolios. In relation to Service-Learning, this kind of experience has proliferated, and it has been an increase in the presence of Service-Learning in the training offer for university teachers (Álvarez, Martínez, González, and Buenestado, 2017). It is important to mention the lack of resources in public universities and its influence in this new learning methodologies. It is not easy to improve a problem/experience-based learning when one faculty has three groups of a hundred students (each one).
The relationship between civil society and higher education institutions in Spain is complex. Spanish universities are increasingly aware of their civic mission and their responsibility to respond to the SDGs. Universities are working on social responsibility, SDGs, with society, but there is still a lot of work to do. Educational initiatives that have these objectives are more individual than institutional.
In Spanish society to hold a university degree is very prestigious. Professional training (non-university) is not so valuated, although this is changing since, say, ten years ago, because it is improving in both social consideration and the quality of the training. Holding a university degree is “necessary” to apply for a job, although the job itself does not need this type of qualification. A degree is devalued due to competitiveness accessing the labour market: More and more to hold a degree is insufficient but a Dual degree. A Ph.D. has value only for an academic career and within Academy, but it has no social consideration. Baby boomers overcrowded University. Therefore, it supposes the democratization of higher education. Millennials are not that much university oriented. Diversity is a value for the Spanish culture, and therefore it is present in degrees and studies. Especially gender issues in the last 5-10 year has acquired enormous importance.
Carlos Ballesteros (Professor at Universidad Pontificia de Comillas); Elena López-de-Arana (Professor Autonomous University of Madrid); Pilar Pino (Coordinator of the service learning office of Carlos III University of Madrid); Marta Albert Márquez (Professor in Universidad Rey Juan Carlos); Lucía Vallecillo (SL Coordinator at Universidad Pontificia de Comillas); Mercedes García- (Rector’s Delegate for Diversity and Inclusion); Clara Guilló, (Sociocultural Diversity coordinator. Universidad Complutense de Madrid)