Spanish state takes control of Catalonian universities

The Spanish government has taken over responsibility for higher education and research in Catalonia, following the region’s unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October. It will retain control of spending on research centres and universities, which the League of European Research Universities says threatens institutional autonomy, writes Cristina Gallardo for Nature.

The Catalonia region of north-east Spain has been in political turmoil ever since a highly controversial vote on independence was taken on 1 October. For the past 32 years the Catalan government has set and financed the budgets of universities, which were allocated €700 million (US$816 million) of the nearly €1 billion Catalan budget for science and universities in 2017. The region is strong in science: between 2007 and 2015, its universities won 210 grants from the European Research Council or ERC, totalling €334 million. In the most recent round, 10 of the 22 ERC starting grants awarded to researchers in Spain were won by researchers based at Catalan institutions.

The League of European Research Universities, headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, has criticised the financial arrangements on the grounds that they undermine institutional autonomy. In a statement issued on 23 October, the group’s Secretary-General, Kurt Deketelaere, wrote: “Just like academic freedom, institutional autonomy is key for the academic world and society at large. It cannot be limited on the basis of political considerations, or to serve political goals.”
Full report on the Nature site