Friday, May 13, 2011

Corruption in the Higher Education System in Spain

A professor in Murcia is claiming that he is persecuted for writing a book about how corrupt the system of higher education is in Spain:
A Spanish university has denied that disciplinary proceedings against one of its professors are a response to a book he wrote alleging corruption at the institution. José Penalva, professor of education at the University of Murcia, has been accused of absenteeism and could face dismissal. He told Times Higher Education that he believed the real reason for the action was a book, published last month, in which he claimed that political influence and nepotism were rife in Spanish universities. Corrupción en la Universidad (Corruption in the University) describes what Professor Penalva sees as the incestuous relationship between Spanish universities and local politics, which he believes is a major factor in the "mediocrity" of the country's higher education institutions. "The rector always is a person who has a lot of power in the local community, and is always supported by a bunch of deans and politicians who scratch each other's backs," Professor Penalva told THE. "This explains why Spanish universities are at the bottom of the international rankings: there is no accountability, so the quality of research is very low," he said. . . Professor Penalva said Spanish universities were legally obliged to advertise academic positions, but that the majority of the members of the selection panels were appointed by the university's rector and the dean of the department in question. "This explains why 98 per cent of lecturers and professors in Spanish universities are 'local candidates' who have already worked in the department and have a 'godfather' there," he said.
I have no idea whether Dr. Penalva is, in fact, guilty of absenteeism, but I do know that he is absolutely right in his charges against the higher education system in Spain. I love Spain and have dedicated my life to the study, teaching and promotion of its culture. However, I have to agree that Spanish higher education is for shit.

When I first started out as a student in Hispanic Studies, my dream was to do my PhD in Spain. Then, gradually, I began noticing certain things that made me reconsider this plan. All of the brightest Hispanists I knew were doing all they could to leave Spain. When I asked them why they didn't want to look for a professorial position or a grad school program in their country, they would tell me that they didn't have the kind of connections it took to be successful in Spanish academia. The quality of courses in the Humanities is, more often than not, abysmal. Sexual harassment, nepotism and exploitation of graduate students are rife. As a result, scholars who want to do actual research and advance on their merits and not on the number of anuses they have been able to wipe clean with their tongues abandon the country.

It is not humanly possible to dedicate enough energy and time to research while simultaneously trying to cultivate connections with everybody who might be remotely "useful." Of course, I have seen academics here in the US who choose ass-licking (and I don't mean in a good, sexually fulfilling kind of way) over doing scholarship. Eventually, however, brown-nosers realize that this is a losing strategy and nobody in the academic community respects them. In Spain, it is just the opposite. As a result, students end up receiving sub-standard education and the prestige of Spanish college diplomas evaporates.   

P. S. If anybody knows where I can get the book in question, I will be very grateful. This is a book I would love to read and review. (Ordering online from Spanish bookstores is a humongous waste of time, as anybody who has ever tried it will know.)


Anonymous said...

Have you tried ordering the books from CasadelLibro? I wonder if one of your bad experiences was with this bookstore.

Otherwise, I could get it for you and ship it, perhaps in exchange for another book?


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this was part of the reason that Spanish professor at Princeton preferred to commit suicide rather than go back to Spain.

Clarissa said...

I haven't tried Casa del Libro. Do you recommend?

I'd love to find a reliable place that ships books from Spain and doesn't take forever about it.

Thank you for your kind offer! If nothing else works, I might take you up on it because this book must be really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Casa del Libro within Spain is pretty good (It's not amazon but it works). They seem to have the book in stock and shipping to the US shouldn't be that much of a hassle but can't tell.


Clarissa said...

I think I should definitely try it. Thanks for the suggestion.

profacero said...

I have had excellent experiences with the Casa del Libro online and by phone ... in person they're OK but by correspondence is when they shine.

Clarissa said...

That's good to know. Now I will definitely be ordering from them and will blog about how that goes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Clarisa

Accurate post, but there is a lot of researchers in Spain fighting to change the status quo, but it is not easy. If you want to know more about this topic, you have a web where we recorded corruption files:

There are also young researchers societies that fight to against corruption. I'm the secretary of one of them:

Anyway, I'm so sorry for your bad experiencie here and I hope that the next step in Spain will be the dennounce of sexual harassment, one of the biggest problems of our university that no one wants to combat.

Dr. Carles Sirera Miralles