On Monday May 23rd the Catalan newspaper El Periódico published (in Spanish) an open letter from 39 English teachers at the University of Barcelona (link here). The letter refers to a growing problem in state education in Spain since the start of the crisis: the growing existence of a “precarious faculty” (profesorado precario), aka teaching staff on associate contracts. These teachers are professionals outside of academia and work in the public sector on a temporary basis, earning less and with poorer conditions than their university-based colleagues.
By law, these teachers are supposed to complement, not replace, university staff; however, Universities are clearly using them to avoid giving out more permanent contracts with standard salaries. And it seems the plight of the English teachers at UB is considerably worse than in other departments.
We would like to offer our wholehearted support to these teachers and by way of publicising their cause, here is their letter translated into English.
Open letter from 39 English teachers at the University of Barcelona
Catalonia has an ever-increasing need for professionals with a high level of English in economic, political, social and cultural contexts. Unfortunately, the University of Barcelona doesn’t seem very keen on responding to this need.
The ratio of students to teacher in the English Studies degree is practically double that of other departments. The proportion of “precarious faculty” (profesorado precario) is more than 66%, and of those, close to 60% have fraudulent associate contracts: that’s to say, they are not real associates (professionals who give some classes in the university) but structurally associated teachers (people who are studying at the university). Meanwhile, in other departments, the proportion of teachers in an unstable position is 40% at most.
The majority of these associate teachers (in breach of the law) are amply qualified and accredited by external evaluating agencies. For years they have been carrying out teaching duties at the University of Barcelona from this precarious position. Despite this, for the past few years the sharing out of positions in the Philology Faculty has been very uneven and clearly discriminatory towards English Studies teachers.
Once again this year, instead of optimising the high academic value of this section of staff (who are very effective educators in terms of the acquisition of English as a foreign language and English-medium literary and cultural studies), the University of Barcelona continues to undervalue them by not offering the required positions. This impacts negatively on the quality of courses which are key for the present and future of Catalan society as well as its internationalisation.
This letter is signed by 39 teachers from the English section of the Department of English and German at the University of Barcelona.
Further information (in Spanish)
Opinion piece from El Periódico on the same issue: Maltratar el profesorado de inglés de la UB es maltratar el futuro económico de Catalunya
An article about the general issue of precarious faculty: Profesores asociados … y precarios (El País)
A TV report from La Sexta: Aumenta la precariedad del profesorado: uno de cada cuatro es interino
And a blog defending the Spanish state education sector: Contra los recortes en educación
With thanks to Andrej Krasnanky of the Barcelona TEFL Teachers’ Association for sharing the original article.