If the students of Valencia spent as much time in the classroom as they do in the streets, they might have cured cancer or put a pony on the moon by now. Today, I went out for groceries and happened upon yet another gigantic protest, this time in opposition to the Bologna Declaration.
Education is a Right, Not a Market
The Bologna process is, from what I gather, an attempt by the European Union to bring all of the higher education systems of its member states into greater alignment. Its meant to facilitate international student transfers, by normalizing length and content of study. For example, after the Bologna Declaration goes into effect (scheduled 2010), all bachelor degrees will consist of a 3-year coursework. The full text of the Declaration can be found here.
So far, pretty uncontroversial. But, the Bologna process also seems to call for the privatization of higher learning — by allowing companies to fund certain degrees. This appeared to be the aspect most under fire by today’s protesting students. There are academic concerns as well; the educational system that Bologna process most resembles is that of the UK. Complete restructuring of a system of learning that dates back to the Middle Ages is bound to cause some headaches. Wikipedia has a useful summary of the process, including details of its implementation across the EU.
I’ve never been to a Spanish school or University, so I’d appreciate any comments as to why the Bologna process is so unpopular here. Will it make higher education more expensive, more beholden to corporate interests, or both? Also, do the protesting students have any hope of succeeding in their goal of stopping it? Spain is already a signatory to the declaration, and since the changes take effect soon, it seems unlikely that the country will change its mind.
Update: Looks like the same protests were not as peaceful in Barcelona! I didn’t watch the parade here for too long, but things definitely didn’t seem out-of-control.