November 2014


Appraisal of the activities of AQU's CLiC Commission, eleven years on

Maria Lluďsa Hernanz Carbó - Chairwoman of AQU Catalunya's CLiC Commission from 2005 to 2014

AQU Catalunya's CLiC Commission (Comissió de Professorat Lector i Professorat Col•laborador, which deals with tenure-track and collaborating teaching staff was set up on 26 March 2003 pursuant to article 145 of Act 1/2003, 19 February, concerning the universities in Catalonia. Since its inception, and alongside the Research Assessment Commission (CAR), the CLiC has been instrumental in the Agency's QA processes involving the assessment of teaching staff at the universities in Catalonia. The CLiC was initially chaired by professor Teresa García Milà, who was responsible for initiating the work of the commission and, together with the members who it consisted of at the time, dealing with the numerous difficulties – both financial and practical – that inevitably arose as a consequence of the appearance of a new body dealing with the university system in Catalonia, the QA functions of which – as in the case of the Research Assessment Commission – were beyond the scope of the universities themselves. By the time I took over the position of the CLiC chair in July 2005, this complex phase was already over and the Commission itself was, to all extent and purposes, consolidated.

The Commission is supported by six review committees:

  • One specific committee that deals with the Humanities
  • One specific committee that deals with the Social Sciences
  • One specific committee that deals with Experimental Sciences
  • One specific committee that deals with Life Sciences
  • One specific committee that deals with Medical and Health Sciences
  • One specific committee that deals with Engineering and Architecture

Each of these specific committees has a chairperson who organises the work of the committee members, establishes and verifies with the team the review criteria specific to their field/s of study and is responsible for the overall results stemming from the committee's QA work and activities. All of the committee chairpersons form part of the CLiC plenary in which, in addition to dealing with matters of a general nature, the work carried out by each of the committees is discussed and jointly assessed. The CLiC plenary consists of eight members: the chairperson, two members designated – together with the position of chairperson – by the Minister responsible for the Government of Catalonia's department with jurisdiction over the universities, and five members designated by the AQU Board of Management at the proposal of the chairperson of the Commission.

Between 2003 and the end of 2013, 19 calls for applications from collaborating teaching staff were made, with a total of 4,432 candidates who applied (up until 2012, when this particular pre-Bologna teaching position ceased to exist) and 24 calls for applications for tenure-track teaching staff (pre-/non-career grade junior lecturers), with a total of 6,444 candidates who applied. This involved a large volume of work, particularly during the first few years subsequent to the CLiC being set up, from both the process handling and academic points of view. The efforts also extended beyond the work of the Commission itself, with a total number of 262 experts being involved, 197 of which were from the university system in Catalonia.

In the light of today and the ten years during which the CLiC has been operating, it is fair to say that the Commission's work over this period of time contributed to the establishment of common areas of cooperation and synergies between the different fields of science that converge there. This is because the guiding principle for the workings of the Commission is the willingness of its members to work together and not in a “confederated” way. Constant care is taken to maintain a balance between establishing the specific merits of the different disciplines and formulating general criteria that serve to define a standard profile for candidates for tenure-track posts. Another necessary constant has been that the CLiC works on the basis of minimums, regardless of whether the minimum is high up on the scale, with the understanding that it is the universities themselves that are ultimately responsible for selecting their teaching staff.

The interdisciplinary nature of the CLiC has constituted a unique opportunity to create an open and pluralistic forum for discussion that encourages the exchange of different points of view, the contrasting of sensitivities that are not always necessarily uniform in the face of problems and, in short, the possibility of sharing good practices and learning from others how to do things better. Meeting discussions have resulted in valuable input as regards the different dimensions – research experience, educational background and teaching activity – that are taken into account and dealt with in quality assurance. Significant efforts have also been made to define precise minimum-level quality standards – particularly in the field of research – that are required of candidates, and also to safeguard transparency in the dissemination of the aforementioned standards and equity in their application. The energy and endeavour of the CLiC's members in bringing about substantial improvements from their respective committees in the drafting of the grounds for unfavourable reports concludes this list, which is unavoidably incomplete.

One final fact worthy of mention is that the work carried out by the CLiC goes beyond that of the the physical work of quality assurance. One obvious activity for a quality assurance commission operating within the framework of a QA agency like AQU Catalunya is to make use of the potential in the scope for studies on and the analysis of relevant data on teaching staff assessment. From the time the Commission was set up, and with the invaluable help of the administrative structure of AQU Catalunya, different studies and projects have been developed along these lines. One of the more interesting ones was the measurement and comparison of the careers of candidates from the six groups of disciplines under review in the successive calls for applications for tenure-track and collaborating teaching staff from 2003 to 2007.

The variables analysed in this study were the success rate, the age when a favourable assessment report was obtained and the rate of appeals. Much more recently, in May 2014, a new report was released on tenure-track (pre-/non-career grade junior lecturer) staff (2003-2013), dealing with the same subject. Also worthy of mention is a study from the early part of 2014 on the profile of merits of candidates applying for a post as tenure-track (pre-/non-career grade junior lecturer) staff: despite the fact that the analysis was partial in scope, it provided very significant data for the comparison of productivity and the scientific quality of research carried out by candidates in different disciplines who obtained a favourable assessment report in 2013. And lastly reference should also be made to a project currently under way to assess changes in the profile of candidates with a favourable report who applied for posts as tenure-track staff throughout the period from 2003-2013.

A look back at the work of the CLiC over this long period shows that the Commission, through the endeavour and involvement of many stakeholders, has contributed in some measure to improving the assessment of teaching staff at higher education institutions in Catalonia. There is still a long way to go, and there is certainly always a large amount of room for the correction of errors and to carry out new improvements and enhancements. Fortunately, life continues.

Over and above these remarks, I can but express my gratitude to the in-house team and those working outside of AQU Catalunya, who have strived to ensure the running of the CLiC, for their trust and valuable support over these years. It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to share this experience with them.


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