Proposal for the participation of universities in the distribution and use of European funds in 2022

Madrid, February 7, 2022

Crue Spanish Universities has prepared a document titled «Plan for participation of universities in the recovery and resilience mechanism. Transforming campuses to transform society» with the aim of including the Spanish University System in the strategy for the distribution and use of Next Generation European funds by the Spanish Government. This proposal aims to make university campuses poles of economic development from an integral perspective.

Crue’s plan is organized into four complementary pillars aligned with the priorities established in the Spanish Government’s Recovery Plan: science and knowledge, training and employment, sustainability, and digital transformation. It also identifies the different roles that the University can play in the distribution and use of funds – receiver, transmitter, and promoter – and proposes different actions so that university campuses become vectors for transforming society.

Universities have a unique dual character as they provide the service of higher education to society at the same time as they are creators at the frontier of knowledge. This character makes them an essential actor to establish synergies between training and research, as connectors in the education, science, and technology society. For this reason, the most innovative and dynamic ecosystems worldwide have strong ties with the most prestigious universities. Although Spain has many solid universities, this dual potential and deep social connection is not fully exploited, and it is necessary to establish a transformation agenda with this aim for the development of its missions of education, research, innovation, and service to society.

The proposed measures are complementary and necessary for the development of multiple actions that focus on overcoming the current crisis through structural changes of our country that would consolidate the knowledge society. Among them are improving business sector competitiveness, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adapting the training offer to the needs of society, overcoming technological challenges, or achieving a fairer and more equitable society based on solid ethical and cultural values.

«Universities lead Knowledge Transfer of and we have shown that we play a key role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, but, as we already explained before the Commission for Social and Economic Reconstruction of the Congress of Deputies, they can and should also play a key role in the transition towards a Knowledge Economy and the recovery of our country», stated Crue’s President, Prof. José Carlos Gómez Villamandos, who hopes that these proposals will serve the Government to justify and request new funds in 2022.

Prof. Gómez Villamandos defends that European funding should not be limited to postdoctoral aid programs and digitalisation plans, which have been the Government’s focus in 2021. Although he considers that these two issues are necessary, he also warns that European aid must serve to introduce structural and functional changes that would allow universities to meet the objectives that the Spanish and European societies demand from them. For this reason, Crue recently asked the Government to include a fund for the implementation of an institutional strengthening plan in the 2022 General State Budget. Unfortunately, this request was unsuccessful.

For Crue Spanish Universities, this unprecedented crisis represents a new opportunity to place higher education, science, and research where they deserve, in the same way as in the most innovative and dynamic ecosystems in the world.