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23 de Noviembre de 2009

“Legaltoday” university: let’s go!

In 1984, the “Ley de Reforma Universitaria “(University Reform Law) was passed in Spain. Before this Law, private universities (with official qualifications) didn’t exist, except for the Catholic universities. But their students took a “double examination”: the first test at the Catholic university and the second and definitive test at a public university (usually, in the Spanish “Universidad Complutense”).

Joan Amenós Álamo,
Profesor titular de Derecho Administrativo de la UAB


Probably, you -lawyers, lecturers, teachers, advisers...- have a lot of ideas about education. In fact, you can find plenty of thoughts about this topic on this website. So, I suggest that you imagine this inaugural speech:

"We, the publishers, authors and readers of legaltoday, consider that higher education is an important ingredient of the economic and social growth of our country.

We have established a work team to prepare a project for a new private university in Spain. Our specialized fields will be law, economics and political science. We have incorporated a wide group of university lecturers, lawyers, economic advisers and researchers. Moreover, we are following all the legal requirements about facilities and buildings.

We respect and admire the work of other institutions, but we are determined to build a new way of learning and researching."

The above is a nice dream, but it is not real. The Spanish private universities are an exclusive and members only club. Both the national Spanish and the regional Parliaments can authorize the establishment of new universities. So, every new institution needs a specific bill (passed by Parliament, under the control of political parties). In conclusion, the creating or the denial of a new institution is a political decision, without any Court controls. It's the kingdom of arbitrariness. So, you can find private universities with high quality and other "universities" authorized by a specific bill but without any prestige (unknown teachers and little existing research). But all of them grant official qualifications in Spain "in the name of the King".

It's true that, in other countries, the establishment of one university requires one Law passed by Parliament, but there are big debates about this procedure. For example, the discussion in India about the Private Universities (Establishment and Regulation) Bill. In the future, it could be an interesting idea to develop more balanced procedures in the Spanish legal system. For example:

  • a) The authorization by Government (and subsequent control by Administrative Courts).
  • b) Competition between different promoters with a definitive decision taken  by Government. This competition should be based on objective criteria: quality of teachers, facilities, learning programs and other legal requirements. It would be possible to retain the old system for Spanish catholic universities: the double examination of students (in a private body and, after, in a public body).

Of course, in all cases, there should strict regulations and the new universities should undergo a severe inspection. Today, this doesn't exist and perhaps we will soon see "toxic qualifications" (like the sadly infamous "toxic titles").


Joan Amenós Álamo,
Número de artículos del autor 2
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