January 2018


The Via Universitŕria programme: information for decision making regarding admissions policies and learning environments for degree courses.

Francesc Xavier Grau i Vidal - Vicepresident, Vives Network of Universities

With the last ten years having been spent on committing to the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the social dimension of higher education is now a matter that requires an unimpeded focus across Europe. This dimension encompasses the socio-economic component that is university students, their living conditions and learning environments, the return that students get from the courses they take and their possibilities of being able to benefit from international mobility programmes, among other things. The social dimension of higher education therefore also refers to equity in terms of opportunities, social class, family support, required study time, social advancement, satisfaction with the institution and the time spent there and, overall, a wide range of quantitative and qualitative variables. These factors can only attest to the realities of any university system through the undertaking of systematic data-based, comparitive studies.

There is a long-standing tradition of research of this type in English and French-speaking countries and universities (US, Canada, UK and Australia; and France and Switzerland, respectively). Within the context of Europe, the Eurostudent project has a strong network of national partners in each participating country. The fact that Spain did not participate in the last two editions of the European project has unfortunately led to an ever greater dearth of knowledge concerning the consequences of the implementation of the EHEA and both the socio-economic conditions and expectations of a large number of university students here.

It is within this context of a dearth of available knowledge in this period of time since Spain stopped participating in the Eurostudent project that a survey with a sample of over 20,000 students at 20 universities in Catalonia and adjacent regions, together with Andorra, where Catalan is spoken was carried out in 2016 under the Via Universitària programme, which is promoted by the Vives Network of Universities. The findings of the Via Universitària I survey [ca] indicates the existence of a wide diversity in the socio-economic and cultural profiles of university students, together with signs of injustice and social fracturing, reflected in both the differences in admission to international mobility programmes and the diverse prospects for career development evident in the surveys according to social origin. Another very revealing finding about the profile of students from Catalan universities pointed to the considerable challenges facing the education authorities and universities. The theoretical image of the full-time student, around which most of the university system is designed, is far removed from present-day reality: around half of all students at bricks-and-mortar universities study were in some kind of employment, together with the fact that around 50% of all students were receiving some kind of direct economic support from their family context in order to be able to study.

The first batch of data showed the need for joint efforts and continuous work in this area of research with the aim of producing regular series that allow for more permanent and in-depth analysis and reflection. It is here that the Vives Network of Universities has committed to enabling universities in Andorra, the Balaeric Islands, Valencia and Catalonia to be on a par with the rest of Europe in terms of producing studies on equity, diversity, quality and autonomy in higher education institutions.

The second leg of this inter-university research programme will last until 2019 and will also benefit from the differentiation advantage provided by the direct participation of the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya), which forms an integral part of the working team, and the collaboration of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in Andorra (AQUA). The two agencies also contribute their knowledge and experience in the quality assurance of both university systems and higher education.

The Vives Network of Universities' Via Universitària second survey will provide a strategic tool for thought and discussion that will contribute to both the design of university policies that are more consistent with the realities of the university system and higher education in Catalonia and adjacent regions, as well as Andorra, where Catalan is spoken, and improvements to the model of welfare society that Europe and its citizens are committed to. What happens today in higher education is what will happen tomorrow in society.


Generalitat de Catalunya

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

© 2017 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008