March 2013

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The AQU Catalunya budget for 2013

Josep Anton Ferré Vidal - Director

The current general economic situation, and in particular the way it is affecting the universities, has led us to thinking that this month's editorial is a good opportunity to share with our readers the budgetary situation of AQU Catalunya and the measures that the Agency has recently had to adopt to ensure the entity's viability.

From 2009 and 2012, capital and current transfers to the Agency from the Generalitat de Catalunya (the Catalan government) went down by 25%.

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This reduction is significant, particularly if one takes into account that transfers from the Generalitat account for 95% of the Agency's revenue, compared to the fees for university teaching staff assessment and evaluation, which only account for around 1% of the total.

Although the Agency's budget accounts for less than 0.35% of the budget set aside by the Generalitat de Catalunya for the universities in Catalonia, we are of the opinion that the added value generated by the Agency more than compensates for this investment, as AQU Catalunya is fully competent in developing external quality assurance processes in Catalonia. Within the process of the building of the European Higher Education Area, it also plays a strategic role in the recognition of the quality of programmes and qualifications offered at European level. It should also be added that it is internationally recognised as a quality assurance agency and best use is made of the public resources that it receives.

Numerous cost-saving measures have had to be made over the last few years because of the 25% reduction. The most important have been the increase in fees for the assessment and evaluation of university teaching staff, wage and salary cuts for reviewers and staff, and a 10% reduction in the number of staff at the Agency. Other less apparent, but equally necessary, ways are the reduction, postponement and even discontinuation of activities connected with knowledge generation (workshops, research studies and publications) and actions to optimise its economic resources and to improve productivity.

It has been necessary to make these measures compatible with a slight decrease in the number of applications for university teaching staff assessment and evaluation, although there has been a significant increase of around 70% in the number of validations of and modifications to recognised university programmes and qualifications.

Academic year

Validations Modifications Total
2010-2011 73 100 173
2011-2012 213 79 292
2012-2013 254 39 293

In terms of the Agency's expenditure, 81% of all expenditure is accounted for by staff salary payments and wages for the members and experts on the review panels1. Unfortunately, as one can see, it is impossible to adopt any cost-saving measures without the amounts set aside to remunerate people for their work being affected.

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At the time of writing this editorial, AQU Catalunya is also affected by the uncertainties surrounding the actual reduction in the budget this year. As an exercise in responsibility, the governing bodies have adopted the following necessary measures so as not to compromise the Agency's budget for 2013 and to guarantee that its budget is balanced:

  • The discontinuation or postponement of any activity that is unrelated to teaching and programme review and assessment, with the exception of projects that have a specific budget from an external source (European projects, graduate destination/labour market outcome surveys, etc.).
  • A proposed increase in the fees for university teaching staff assessment and evaluation, and the introduction of new fees (for the assessment of merits in research for all public service and contract teaching and research staff) in order to bring the cost of assessments in line with the fees.

Process Cost/reviewer (in euros)* Cost /staff AQU (amount in hours, h)
Assessment: tenure-track lecturers/ collaborating lecturers € 216 4,64 h
Assessment: tenured assistant professors and full professors € 145 3,17 h
Merits in research € 75 1,56 h
* Figures 2012

  • A further reduction in the pay of reviewers, experts and collaborators for participating in the work of the review panels.
  • The application of measures that affect the Agency's in-house staff (salaries, reinstatement, etc.)

By applying all of these measures, the Agency can cut its budget, in relation to 2012, by 15%, although this will mean putting back the site visits for programme accreditation to 2014.

In the event that the scenario were to be more favourable, i.e. a smaller reduction in the budget, such a containment of expenditure would, within the budget for 2013, allow for certain site visits in relation to recognised programmes to be included.

Any other scenario with a reduction greater than that envisaged could only be successfully dealt with through the application of exceptional measures, such as on-line (virtual) meetings instead of face-to-face meetings, by further reducing the pay of experts, establishing new fees for programme evaluation, and further reducing the wage and salaries of the Agency's in-house staff.

Quite obviously, the application of any of the abovementioned measures could seriously compromise the review, assessment and evaluation processes that the Agency is commissioned to undertake and, if the situation were to continue into 2014, it would endanger the full implementation of the Framework for the validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation of recognised university degree programmes and qualifications. We trust that this will not happen.

1 Figures from the 2012 non-consolidated budget.

Generalitat de Catalunya

C. de Sancho de Ávila, 125-129, 1a planta 08018 Barcelona. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2013 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008