Rules for progressing and continuing studies
A change to the rules for progress and permanence was one of the biggest demands in the 2016 elections. The team has taken on this request by changing the regulations to encourage the continuity and completion of studies. The results of implementing the new regulation have been extremely positive. However, after four years have passed, it is time to introduce improvements, such as the possibility of reducing the number of credits needed to keep studying at the institution after the third year — from 90 to 60. We will work on these new modifications by discussing them with student representatives on the Student Board and presenting them to the university community, before they are approved by the Social Council of the University.
It is important to highlight that the university has taken into account the circumstances surrounding the pandemic and its effects on student performance, which needs to be taken into account when deciding whether students can continue studying on university courses for the 2020/2021 academic year. This will benefit numerous students affected by this situation. These actions, and the continued effects of the pandemic, will allow us to continue applying the new regulations over the next few years, improving how the situation is managed and adapting to students’ new circumstances. We will ensure that no student is expelled from university for failing to meet the criteria for progressing and continuing studies.
Contracts and grants
For us, one of our core aims is for no one to have to drop out of university because of a lack of financial resources. That is why we have increased the number of enrolment grants to cover all the applications we have received. The new situations that have arisen in the wake of the pandemic have prompted us to put in place new mechanisms to support students with unexpected new needs, such as the free extension of enrolments to the 2020/21 academic year and support for the digital divide in the current academic year. In this new term, we will continue to advance our philosophy of offering financial support to students.
On the other hand, the significant progress made in reducing academic fees has been one of the main achievements in this stage in office. We believe in higher education as a universal and free public service in state-run universities, so we will continue to coordinate our actions at the university, in line with the Student Council, to achieve further reductions in the academic fees set by the government of the Principality of Asturias over the next four years.
Complementary and continuous training
Over recent years, further training has taken on a very important role in the curriculum. We are aware of the need to produce a wide range of options, and we have launched an experimental project to give students the choice to take modules from other degrees, such as language and computer science, for anyone studying at the University of Oviedo. This means will be able to enrol, at public prices, while pursuing another degree. This is an initial and complementary step, one that lays the groundwork for the concept of an open degree, which will allow, personalised learning through a free choice of subjects, within the framework of some general guidelines. The implementation of these degrees at the University of Oviedo will be one of the objectives to be developed over the next four years.
On the other hand, at the Institute of Educational Research and Innovation (INIE) and the range of our own degrees on offer, we now offer the largest variety of learning options, in terms of quantity and variety, ever provided at the university. Over the next term in office we will include new subjects, adjusting our options to meet the demand for multi-purpose training and refresher courses, both for the university community and open to wider society. Further training after the completion of a master’s degree will be another action point, by enhancing our own degree programmes.
In recent years we have broken the record for the number of Erasmus students at the university, and we intend to continue to increase their numbers, as the Erasmus experience, and the experience on our exchange programmes in general, is one of the most highly valued factors by employers on student curricula. We will encourage an international outlook, language learning and study abroad programmes, elements that have proved to be key on professional curricula. In order to certify the activities related to internationalisation, we propose the creation of an International Intensification Certificate that will be granted to students who meet certain requirements in terms of language skills for languages and study and/or research stays abroad. From the University of Oviedo Foundation and in collaboration with Asturex, we will explore new opportunities for professional work experience, whether in Asturian companies abroad or in international organisations, such as the IDB, OAS, CERN or UN, among others.
One of our biggest concerns in recent years has been the employability of our graduates. That is why high-quality education has been one of our main objectives. However, the changing and highly competitive global context tells us that this is not enough. The knowledge acquired in university studies must include multi-faceted skills in such important subjects, such as entrepreneurship, digitalization, social skills, sustainability and more. To achieve this, we have launched specific training, talent discovery and entrepreneurship programmes (ChampU, Dream Big, Explorer, Citas con Éxito, etc.). We have put company Chairs in place, which allow the working world to accompany us in teaching such skills through presentations and work experience. In addition, we have reinvigorated the Employment Forum and improved the Suma Talento work experience programme for new graduates.
Over this new mandate, we will expand our talent discovery and entrepreneurship programmes. We will seek to increase the number of paid scholarship placements. In addition, we will launch a wide range of courses and educational pills for a number of different skills on our Virtual Campus — free of charge to the university community. Through financial aid, we will enhance learning activities through projects carried out by student groups, such as clubs, debate societies, associations (Drone4student, art and theatre workshops, MotoStudent, Fórmula Student, University Radio), international cooperation, climate change and the Agenda 2030.
Beyond the actions that aim to complement the training acquired in our degrees and master’s degrees, we will work to ensure that the official qualifications themselves incorporate entrepreneurial skills.
On the other hand, we are concerned about brain drain to other Spanish and European regions. That’s why we launched the University of Oviedo Club Alumni 360⁰, an initiative that we want to promote in the coming years and that aims to encourage employment and create employment opportunities, productive activity and wealth in the local area.
The university is a space for personal development, which is why it is key to have areas that facilitate coexistence, sports and social relations. During this mandate we have resolved, through a considerable financial investment, to put appropriate conditions in place so that academic activity can be carried out comfortably. We have adapted our hiring conditions so that healthy foods are available in our cafés and vending machines, and we have improved our green areas, among other actions.
The establishment of the Student Board, together with the regulations for Academic Unemployment, have been some of the milestones reached in this mandate, which place us at the forefront of the Spanish university system. In addition, we have encouraged participation in decision-making through initiatives such as participatory budgets, which allow the university community to determine the allocation of a small amount of the budget. We have also made progress, although it has not yet materialised, towards the implementation of facilities that will house the Student House, with services for the entire student body that will reach all university campuses.
During this new mandate, we will improve environmental conditions by making them compatible with more sustainable energy management, reducing energy consumption and the institution’s carbon footprint. In this sense, we will propose projects to rehabilitate and adapt our campuses within the €100 million allocation that the Government will allocate to the Urban Agenda, under which university campuses should receive special attention. We will design social spaces along the lines of the one planned for the El Cristo Campus, where green areas, bicycle parking, recreational sports areas and Student House services stand out. With the same objective, we will seek to adapt the Living Quarters for the Humanities Campus, turning it into a space for coexistence, with services and accommodation for students and visiting staff. At the Gijón and Mieres Campuses, which have large outdoor spaces, we will put new areas for coexistence in place, taking care of the environments so that they are healthy living spaces.
During the current situation, in which in-person presence is limited and social distancing is in place on our campuses, we have made a great effort to use all the available space and provide it with the healthiest possible conditions of use. Along this line we will provide imaginative solutions that allow the use of open spaces, with simple and versatile urban furniture that allows for social distance and the use of the university’s Wi-Fi network in a safe and comfortable way.
In terms of the new initiatives we are implementing, some of which are in the project phase and others that are in progress, we aim to provide services and meeting places on campuses, such as canteens and services associated with the Student House, in line with the plans for the concrete area above the El Cristo car park opposite the Faculty of Biology.
We will provide students with access to a large fleet of electric vehicles to facilitate mobility on campus and between campuses, in an effort to continue improving university transport.
Another line of action will be to improve the full electronic administration of student procedures, an area in which we have already made significant progress. We will organise the purchase and distribution of computer equipment available on loan for students who require it. This digitalisation must be complemented by access to digital platforms with information and teaching materials, the use of which will become widespread in the coming years.
Residence halls and accommodation
With the reopening of the Altamira University Residence Hall and the university facilities in El Brañillín in Pajares, we have completed the whole of the university accommodation offer. This has been accompanied by a new regulation for Residence Halls and improvements to all facilities, such as the comprehensive renovation of the Wi-Fi network. In addition, we have put a scholarship programme in place to encourage the use of the Mieres University Residence Hall.
In this new mandate, we will face two major challenges. The first will be the tender for a University Residence Hall for the Gijón/Xixón Campus. Following failed attempts by the City of Gijón/Xixón, we are working on a new approach to the tender that will allow the project to succeed. The second challenge will be the renovation of the San Gregorio Residence Hall to adapt it to current standards. A modernisation is required, but one that does not renounce the college spirit invoked by its residents. Likewise, we will not rule out the possibility of having more accommodation space in the campus vicinity, through formulas of cooperation with different administrations and companies, such as the expansion of the El Cristo Campus.
In parallel, and in order to address historical errors, we have launched a project to fully renovate the University of Oviedo summer camps in Salinas, which had fallen into neglect. This will allow us to have a significant space that will allow us to carry out activities in the Avilés-Castrillón area, where accommodation is required.
Encouraging an international student body
Attracting international students is possibly one of our greatest challenges as an institution, as it is essential to help alleviate depopulation, attract talent and create entrepreneurial initiatives in Asturias. The most intense efforts should be on master’s and doctoral degrees, where specialisation is carried out, and we may also be able to attract people to rejuvenate the workforce. Together with the Principality of Asturias and institutional bodies, we will launch a tuition programme and accommodation grants on the Mieres Campus. Our objective is to call for 100 annual grants in master’s and doctoral programmes, including an Industrial Doctoral Programme, with companies developing R&D&I in the Principality of Asturias. This initiative will be complemented by a pilot programme promoted through talent recruitment agents targeting specific areas, in a limited number of countries, with special attention given to Latin America.
Promoting a more international student body is an indispensable strategy. We intend to increase from the current 33% (starting from 21.43% in 2016) to 50% of the percentage of graduates with international experience. To achieve this objective, we will develop an international qualification or special mention for qualifications available to graduates who complete their degrees with 50% international study or work experience, and we will put incentives in place to finance master’s and doctoral programmes that include international mobility as a requirement for the qualification.
Our plan is to grow further in terms of European fundraising, both traditional Erasmus and Erasmus+, in countries outside the EU, where we have already placed ourselves in the top 10 among Spanish universities, tripling our fundraising (from €1,049,000 in 2016 to €2,872,500 in funding this year).
The increase in the linguistic skills of our students will make a difference in the competitiveness of university graduates. We will increase the percentage of graduates with official accreditation of level B2 in English, encouraging the gradual replacement of English language tests in The House of Languages with online APTIS tests.
We will encourage knowledge of other languages, in particular European languages and Asturian, by providing institutional recognition of other languages as a plus point for accessing master’s degrees or university grants, as well as other competitive processes.
All the internationalisation strategies for our student body will be reflected in the creation of the Certificate of International Intensification. This certificate will be incorporated into the CV of students who meet certain language and international mobility requirements. This added value will seek to encourage job placement.
Over the last three years we have developed an unprecedented laboratory renovation plan, with an investment of more than €850,000. In addition to the laboratory equipment refurbishment plan, the computer refurbishment programme in computer classrooms has also been bolstered, with more than 1,400 computers refurbished over the past 4 years. Over 300 new Wi-Fi access points have been installed over this mandate, reaching 100% coverage in 16 buildings, with the main goal of improving teaching and with targeted improvements in certain buildings.
In this new term, we will focus our efforts on gradually providing our faculties and schools, as well as departments, where appropriate, with programmes to help modernise their laboratories. We will organise an Educational Software Licensing Programme following the experience we have gained with the MATLAB Programme, the Acrobat DC license, and the Microsoft Campus license. In particular, we will encourage the gradual and widespread introduction of simulators to support practical teaching. We will deploy an updated version of the Virtual Campus in the cloud to overcome resource constraints. We will upgrade the Wi-Fi network to 100% coverage in all our facilities and launch new coworking spaces and study rooms. We will expand the concept of our virtual library by incorporating new types of publications and e-book platforms, in collaboration with the national programmes promoted by the Spanish University Library Network in CRUE and the G-9 public university group.
General Survey on Teaching and Satisfaction Levels
One of the most important elements available to an institution looking to improve quality levels are satisfaction surveys. In universities, this idea is reflected in a general teaching survey that asks students about their experience in the different subjects they have taken. Over recent years, this survey has been conducted electronically via a web platform and a mobile app. This combination has increased the number of responses by 15 per cent. Over this academic year, a general survey on education has been sent out that is more agile and versatile in its approach.
In this new period we will work to increase the impact of our general teaching survey by establishing new mechanisms that encourage its goals and that show the improvements resulting from the survey analysis more clearly. We will also send out other student surveys to find out their detailed opinion of the university in general terms, improving on the surveys that have been carried out and to look further into the development of teaching in mixed teaching conditions or online teaching. We will intensify graduate feedback, implementing more effective systems to find out student opinions on the effectiveness of university programmes in their work and personal objectives. In addition, we will carry out specific surveys for the work sector that allow us to get a sense of the demand for job profiles and any issues that may affect our graduates.
Guidance for the future
We are aware of the importance of student guidance, both before and during studies, and we have reinforced tutorial action plans during this mandate. Over the next period, we will move forward in these plans in order to increase their reach. We will introduce new topics, such as the environment and protecting the planet, within a curricular sustainability plan. We will work to highlight the importance of subjects by linking them to their work outputs, so that students know how important they are and improve their motivation. We will focus on multi-faceted training, leadership and international experience as fundamental elements of competitiveness and versatility when finding a job or starting a business.
Through the collaborations we have established with professional organisations, such as Compromiso Asturias XXI and our Club Alumni 360°, we will increase support for graduates in their job searches through training courses and mentoring programmes. Our open training offer, through INIE and the Teacher Innovation Centre, will include NOOC-type mini-courses for those who are going to prepare for public service selection exams, especially for graduates of our professional master’s degrees. The Master’s Degree in Teacher Training and the Master’s Degree in Law are good examples of this.
Health comes first
The current pandemic has highlighted the importance of caring about our health. In this context, we need to commit to the health of our students. We will encourage outreach campaigns that improve the mental health and well-being of our university community as a result of the exceptional situation we are going through. Specifically, we will devote attention to health problems that frequently affect doctoral students, which, as detected by the University of Berkeley (California), affect half of those preparing their dissertations (impostor syndrome, competitive landscape, isolation and guilt, work-life balance, etc.).
It is essential to have a mental health service, which should be organised by professionals in groups that research this field of healthcare. This department, office or clinic, must be a service that is available to the entire university community and open to society.
We have increased the number of enrolment grants to cover all the applications we have received