Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barcelona Student Protests

Ten days ago, the news here in Spain was dominated by student and teacher protests throughout Europe against the university reforms known as the La Bologna ( or Bolonia/Bolonya) process that began in 1999 with an end date of 2010. And, while most of the coverage focused on the Barcelona police's response, which made the LAPD seem down-right civilized, little -- make that --no time was given to the pros and cons of the initiative or its effects going forward.

From what I gather, the goal is the implementation of a two-tier system, where a three-year shorter first cycle (bachelor’s degree), is followed by a one-and-a-half or two-year second cycle (master’s degree). Currently, in Spain, the system is broken down into a three year (or technical degree) or a four, five or six-year "Licenciatura" or "Ingeniería" degree, depending on the profession.

A common worry is that the current four, five or six-year curriculum will be crammed into three, increasing the already heavy load students carry. While this may no doubt be the case, this not a clear cut conclusion. Perhaps classes previously required would be cut, which explains the opposition of the faculty, but streamlining the course load would not inherently be a bad thing, since many graduates complain about an over reliance on theory. So, why the mass protests?

There seems to be a genuine disillusionment for all things European here in Spain, and I'd venture most of Europe. Going back to the introduction of the euro, which made business easier but saw salaries stagnate, to the expansion into Eastern Europe that saw Western European factories close and move, to the recent attempts to regulate centuries old cultural traditions such as las Fallas in Valencia, it seems every time Europe passes something or gets involved, the normal citizens get screwed.

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