July 2013

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AQU Catalunya: the means for improving Catalan universities

Josep Joan Moreso Mateos - President

As I begin my work as President of the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya) I would like to briefly express three things:

Firstly, my gratitude. I am very grateful to the Executive Council (Govern) of the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya) for my appointment to this position, in particular to the Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, and the Secretary for Universities and Research, Antoni Castellà. I am also grateful to the work done during the terms in office of the previous presidents, Antoni Serra Ramoneda and Joaquim Prats Cuevas. Together with the various directors (CEOs) that the Agency has had up until now – David Serrat, Gemma Rauret, Javier Barà and, currently, Josep A. Ferré – they have made the Agency into an institution that is widely esteemed both in the Catalan system of higher education and at international level. It is structures of this type that increasingly substantiate Catalonia's position and enhance its reputation.

The second thing is that, as I begin, I now have to learn. The Agency has skilled and experienced professionals with whom I have to find out what exactly they have done to produce what has been done up until now, together with what they think about the future. I am not here to give lessons, but to learn, to see and listen how the various instruments sound and how they are all organised and fit together as a whole. Only when I have become fully immersed in the internal workings of the institution will it be time to coordinate its movements and optimise the Agency's work.

My third, and final, comment is that Catalan universities are very well placed within the context of both Spain and southern Europe. Catalonia has a good university and higher education system, the students of which, when they move internationally, for example, with the Erasmus programme, are extremely successful in the best universities in the world; it is a system that over the last fifteen years has made a great leap forward in research and scientific production that has placed Catalonia way beyond whatever one could have ever imagined in the past, and a system that starts to give positive results in innovation and knowledge transfer. For all of these reasons various rankings (for example, the Under 50 rankings of the top 100 universities under 50 years old) have recently seen Catalan universities placed very highly. Moreover, in the severe current economic crisis, what is needed is a university system that produces the best professionals and generates the most advanced research. There is no longer doubt in anyone's mind that a country's education is closely linked to the wellbeing of its citizens.

The purpose of the Agency must therefore be to promote and improve higher education and the university system in Catalonia. It must always be a means for improvement and never an obstacle. I am aware that university lecturers, professors and researchers are all concerned about increasing bureaucracy in universities. And quality assurance is one of the causes of concern. A day doesn't go by, I often joke, without our assessing or evaluating one colleague or other or ourselves being assessed in turn by another. Quality assurance needs to be like salt in a paella: it's there, but one shouldn't notice it. If you can taste it, then there's too much. The accreditation of contract teaching staff has been established, with the challenge of the new Serra Hunter programme, and it works well with a minimum of bureaucracy. The challenge in the immediate future is to do the same with the accreditation of recognised degrees within the context of the European Higher Education Area. There are hundreds of Bachelor, Master's and doctorate degrees that have to be evaluated and accredited, and this needs to be done as quietly and delicately as possible to rectify whatever is necessary and to further develop what has gone well. We can make higher education and the university system more sound, more balanced, more efficient and ultimately better.

I will do my very best in this endeavour, with the awareness that, as it is a collective endeavour, it will ultimately depend on the coming together and interaction between all of those involved and their efforts.


Generalitat de Catalunya

c/. dels Vergós, 36-42. 08017 Barcelona. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

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