university education

   Though universities have existed in Spain since the Middle Ages, the shape of higher education in modern times really derives from reforms carried out in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The main effect of these was to establish standard programmes of study in all institutions, and to consolidate state control. The Complutense University of Madrid, indeed, was initially known as the Central University, created by the transfer of the University of Alcalá de Henares (the original Universidad Complutense, founded in the early sixteenth century) to Madrid in 1836. By 1857, all aspects of university life, academic, administrative and financial were subject to government control. It was at this time that the division into faculties was adopted (philosophy and letters; physical and natural sciences; pharmacy; medicine; law and theology), as well as the three-part structure of degree courses into bachelor, licenciate and doctoral levels. By the end of the nineteenth century universities had come to be regarded as little more than degree factories, and demand for radical reform grew. Some individual institutions took initiatives in this direction, such as the University of Oviedo, which, in the spirit of renewal associated with the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institute of Education) began a programme of university outreach. Discussion on university autonomy intensified until a decree of 1919 established this principle, which remained in being until the Civil War.
   The early governments of the Second Republic evolved a vision of higher education which embraced the professional training of staff, the encouragement of research and the dissemination of culture, though most of the effective initiatives were concentrated in the primary and secondary sectors. The future shape of university education during the Franco period was, however, determined in the Nationalist zone during the Civil War, when in 1938 a scheme was drawn up which established the bachillerato universitario, a school-leaving examination conceived as facilitating entry to the university system by a select minority who would form the future ruling class. This notion of forming a kind of intellectual aristocracy was what underlay the University Reform Law of 1943, and it was reinforced by the foundation of the Sindicato Español Universitario (Spanish Students" Union), a branch of the Falange. Membership of SEU was compulsory for all students, though paradoxically the earliest student protests against government control of higher education were mounted by this organization.
   From the mid-1950s, it became obvious that economic growth and social changes made it necessary to update the university system. New advanced technical schools were established by legislation enacted in 1964, and were incorporated into the third-level educational sector through the polytechnic universities. The 1960s saw the transition from an élite to a mass system of higher education, and the increasing politicization of students, in response to the social transformations which were taking place elsewhere. Though Spain felt the impact of the revolutionary agitation which began in Paris in May 1968, the student movement in Spain, as in other countries, exhausted itself and turned inward, the banner of protest being handed to junior university staff.
   Though significant reforms of education were enacted in 1970, the university system did not assume its present shape until the changes brought about by the LRU in 1983, which established the principle of university autonomy in certain aspects of course design, government and financing, and facilitated the foundation of new private universities. Overall, the number of universities in Spain has doubled since 1970.
   Further reading
   - Carreras Ares, J.J. and Ruiz Carnicer, M.A. (eds) (1991) La universidad española bajo el regimen de Franco (1939-1975), Zaragoza: Institución Fernando el Católico (a symposium of essays which offers the most up-to-date account of this period).
   - Guereña, J.L. et al. (1994) Historia de la educación en la España Contemporánea. Diez años de investigación, Madrid: CIDE (a symposium of overview essays; see especially the chapter on higher education).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 19 gives a good overall account of the development of education at all levels).
   - Ministerio de Education (1996) Guía de la Universidad, Madrid: Ministerio de Educación (the official reference guide to universities).
   ALICIA ALTED

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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