The CRUE document about the university 2030 establishes that future funding must define evolution rules for resources that, promoting the aims and analysing the results, take the rigidities of costs that operate in the universities into account. The current situation within public universities is the consequence of previous decisions, internal and external to the institution, and even historical roots and that the regulation has converted into structural costs.
The University of Oviedo drew up its strategic plan for the 2018-2022 period, which was approved by the Governing Council and by the Social Council. This plan is aligned with the Funding Plan signed with the Government of the Principality of Asturias for the same period and which is being implemented, and its objectives being met, despite the financial difficulties that universities are experiencing and of which the University of Oviedo is no exception.
Economic/financial management is a true transversal axis of any organisation. As the University of Oviedo is a widely decentralised organisation in its management, the internal processing of any budgetary aspect has repercussions on teaching and research activities. The contributions provided for the university to cover its missions must be sufficient to undertake them with certain guarantees. This is stated in article 79.1 of the Universities Organic Law, which guarantees “that universities have the necessary resources for a basic quality operation.” Our mission as university managers is to work collaboratively with the regional administration to claim and achieve compliance.
Regarding internal procedures, a true paradigm shift has been witnessed in recent years, with a greater role in digital processing processes. The aim is to simplify tasks for teaching and research staff, as well as the administration and services staff responsible for the cost centres. Digital transformation that requires planning and significant investment into equipment and programmes.
The necessary technical and procedural measures will be implemented to place the “Analytical Accounting Model for Universities” into operation, agreed upon within the mixed CRUE-MECD Working Group and with the advice of the IGAE, of which the University of Oviedo is a part. This model will begin to be applied in 2021 and simplifies and standardises criteria based on rigour and respecting the fundamental principles for achieving the objectives established by current legislation on the matter.
The agreement signed between the University of Oviedo and the Principality of Asturias in 2017, in force until 2021, extendable to 2022, has guaranteed the funding of current expenses in recent years. It has also made it possible to have small investments for renewing and modernising infrastructures.
However, Spanish economy has gone into COVID-19 in a scenario full of uncertainties. Asturias is no exception. It is prudent to consider that higher education and Regional Community funding will be affected by great budgetary tensions.
One of the main challenges of the next rectoral mandate is to renew this contract/programme from its validity period. The objective is to obtain basic funding that covers 100% of the institution’s nominative and current expenses, as well as to maintain the compensation for the decrease in public enrolment prices. This funding should be accompanied by an infrastructure plan appropriate to a reality of 52 buildings and strong technological requirements. A funding plan by objective will also be included that enables the institution to meet significant challenges in research and transfer, as well as to address unique and strategic projects for Asturias, in R&D+i cluster research lines.
Budget for centres, departments and institutes
Over the last four years, the university’s idea-force in economic governance has been to encourage centres and departments to have their own greater budgetary capacity to be able to develop their objectives. Faced with centralist models where university bodies make even minor domestic decisions, the University of Oviedo’s mandate has been characterised by granting a wide margin of decision on matters that affect them.
Improvements have therefore been applied to their allocations well above the growth of the university’s own budget. In the same sense, the university has begun to provide research institutes with a modest budget in the last year to ensure their basic operation. Within this new mandate, this action line will be consolidated, committing to increase the budget for decentralised spending units by at least 25%. Some of the overheads of the projects that they capture will also begin to be returned to the departments and research institutes.
Public procurement is one of the most problematic areas of economic and administrative management. Its complex regulations, as well as guarantee and transparent procedure requirements, make it a long and tedious process. However, the management services related to this responsibility have been strengthened during this mandate, with special emphasis on the digital administration of tenders, training and information to and for the management centres, effectively implemented legislative changes, ongoing, that had occurred.
In the next term, the recruitment service structure will be consolidated and reinforced and ongoing training provided on the matter, making contractual management more effective and efficient.
Spanish legislation requires the approval and annual rendering of the University Administration accounts. An itinerary that includes its debate and approval by the institution’s Governing Council and Social Council, for subsequent referral to the Principality of Asturias, to the corresponding Ministry and to the Audit Office.
Diligent compliance with these requirements must continue to be a common objective, which does not entail generating obstacles that hinder the fulfilment of the university’s aims and projects, and which provide the society of Asturias and the university community with the necessary and sufficient knowledge on the correct and transparent use of the resources that are made available to it. This requires adaptation that is more in line with the university’s unique characteristics, specific activities and way of functioning, of the regulations and processes on internal control.
Four years ago, the University of Oviedo was classified as opaque in the Spanish transparency rankings. This was a major image problem for the University. In this period, a very relevant boost to has been given to its transparency portal, completely renewing its aesthetics, functionality and content. The University of Oviedo has thus risen to the top of the rankings that measure transparency (Dyntra, Fundación Compromiso and Transparencia). Also, the Transparency and Data Protection Commission has been created, with numerous powers in this matter, including preparing an annual report on compliance with transparency regulations.
For the new mandate, the Transparency Portal will be improved with the integration of the indicators with the management systems (teaching, economic and research) so that the information displayed is fully up-to-date, being the scope of economic/budgetary management, personnel and accountability, key factors to show the technical rigour, quality and security within the university’s processes.
Quality of university services
The creation of the Quality Committee in 2017 promoted performance definition and monitoring indicators that have identified opportunities for improving university services. In the same way, 100% of the university’s services presentation letters are periodically reviewed. They are an example of good practices in which employees are involved in obtaining results.
Along this line, work will continue on obtaining certifications such as ISO 9001:2015 that the Publishing Service currently has or the Radioactivity Laboratory accredited as a Test Laboratory by UNE-EN ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accredited by the Nuclear Safety Council.