Bologna baloney: Barcelona student protestors are either mad or stupid

Barcelona students are occupying universities and fighting with police in a titanic life and death struggle against the prostitution of universities to Capital. Meanwhile Google UK news produces only five ghits for “Bologna Declaration“, three of which are in English, one of which concerns the accord signed in 1999 and designed to make it easier for graduates to get jobs in other countries, and the first of which concerns Siena striker Emanuele Calaio who, in something of a turn-up for the records of turf accountants, “has withdrawn his claim that he missed a penalty on Sunday against Bologna because it was God’s will and the spot-kick should have never been awarded in the first place.”

The only relevant piece quotes a new report, University Systems Ranking: Citizens and Society in the Age of the Knowledge by Peer Ederer, Philipp Schuller and Stephan Willms, which departs from the axiom that:

Universities are not simply a mechanism for churning out a handful of elites and perpetuating social inequality but should be capable of empowering and equipping the largest possible number of individuals with the fullest set of tools she or he [in Brussels dialect “the largest possible number of individuals” takes either gender] will need to become well-rounded participants in our social democracy and fully-functioning economic units in that society.

Hear, hear. And since Spanish students are defending the status quo, presumably the Spanish system already delivers far better results than those promised by Bologna. Let’s see what the report says:

To examine how universities deliver on these important economic and social goals, the authors examined and ranked 17 OECD countries – Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and US – on six separate criteria:

  • Inclusiveness: The ability of a country’s tertiary education system to graduate large numbers of students relative to the size of its population.
  • Access: The ability of a country’s tertiary system to accept and help advance students with low levels of scholastic aptitude from secondary schools. To measure this, the authors compared countries based on the skill threshold of students entering universities derived from recent OECD data.
  • Effectiveness: The ability of a country’s educational system to produce graduates with skills relevant for the country’s labour market. Here, the authors compared the average wage premiums a university graduate can expect.
  • Attractiveness: The ability of a country’s system to attract a diverse range of foreign students. To measure this, the authors looked at the percentage of foreign students coming to each country from their 10 top source countries, hoping to show whether a tertiary system merely attracts foreign students from neighbouring countries or whether the country has a wider appeal among the international student community.
  • Age-range: The ability of a country’s tertiary system to function as a lifelong learning institution.
  • Responsiveness: The system’s ability to reform and change. This measured the speed and effectiveness with which countries have adapted their education system to the criteria laid down in the Bologna Declaration, signed in 1999, which seeks to harmonise and improve cross-border recognition of degree courses and qualifications among its 29 signatories.

[Blah blah, the tertiary education systems in Australia, the UK and Denmark are the best, blah blah]

Spain comes in last overall. While it ranks 12 on Inclusiveness, the measure of how many of its university-age students actually receive a university education, it ranks lower on most other categories, and particularly on Effectiveness – the wage premiums that a university education commands on the local labour market.

So Spain is excellent at letting in students, but the added value is so low that all that’s happening is that large, instead of small, numbers of people are being screwed. Take that telesales job now, darling, because you’re going to be applying for the same job in five years time when you finish your Romance Philology degree.

So what are the protests about? My guess is that it’s another leg of the dog which is still upset locally about the loss of the Kingdom of Aragon’s feudal rights in 1714, and nationally about the eclipse of the Spanish empire by American might, and which would actually like nothing better than to crawl back into its kennel to moulder and die, in a glorious but somewhat belated tribute to Enver Hoxha’s self-reliant Albania. The logical inference seems to me to be that the protesters are either stupid or mad. Unlike myself.

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  1. One suspects that the higher education system serves primarily the continuity needs of the gremio de catedráticos. In this regard, it is a total success.

    Note, however, the cost. The brightest of the bright, Rab and Ian being prime examples, bailed out.

    Bring back King Zog.

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