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University teaching staff decreases in public universities and increases in private universities in Spain

According to data from the A4U Alliance’s IUNE 2024 Observatory


The evolution of the number of permanent lecturers in public and private universities has varied substantially over the last decade. In the case of the institutions that are part of the Spanish Public University System (SUPE, in its Spanish acronym), the growth in the number of staff (civil servants and those with permanent contracts) has been gradually decreasing. However, the number of teaching staff in the private system (SUEPr, in its Spanish acronym) has been growing at annual rates of around 6%, reaching 11.73% in the last period. This is one of the conclusions drawn from the IUNE Observatory’s 2024 annual report, which has just been published and which belongs to the Alliance 4 Universities (A4U), formed by the Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and Pompeu Fabra (UPF) universities.

Observatorio IUNE 2024

This report, prepared by the  INAECU Institute (UAM-UC3M), monitors the SUE’s R&D&i through 42 indicators in eight major dimensions: scientific activity, analysis by areas of knowledge, emerging scientific activity, educational capacity, competitiveness, funding, innovation and teaching staff.

Regarding productivity per lecturer, in the case of SUPE, productivity has been growing annually until 2021 (with 1.15 documents per lecturer), decreasing slightly in 2022 to 1.02%. “This result is consistent with the annual increases in production and, in practice, with the lack of replacement of the teaching staff at public universities,” say the report’s authors. However, in SUEPr, productivity per lecturer remains stagnant at around 0.4 documents, despite the higher growth in teaching staff. 

General slowdown

The new edition of the IUNE Observatory’s annual report  shows a slowdown in the fall of the Spanish University System (SUE, in its Spanish acronym)’s main research indicators compared to those observed since the 2008 financial crisis, with a gradual recovery from 2020 onwards. 

According to the data in this edition, the number of scientific publications has gone from growing annually at an average of 5.92% to 4.86% (practically one percentage point less). On a similar scale, the average productivity of the SUE (measured by the number of publications per lecturer) has decreased from 6.32% to 5.47%. ”This data confirms the trend of recent observatories in which decreases in these indicators have been observed, which are due, in part, to reductions in the number of teaching staff at public universities, which have fallen by 0.6% annually in the current decade,” say the report’s authors. 

In terms of research collaboration indicators for the period studied, the percentage of publications in international collaboration stands at 50.8%, increasing over the years at an average annual rate of 6.5%. On the other hand, 26.1% of publications are in national collaboration, with an average annual growth rate of 4.4%. Finally, non-collaborative publications account for 23.2% of the total and have been gradually decreasing, with the exception of the years 2020 and 2021, when they experienced a slight increase.

Just over half (51%) of the SUE’s scientific work is published in high-visibility journals (of the so-called first quartile), of which 7.8% appear in the top three journals of their subject category (Top3). As for the percentage of open access publications, there has been a considerable increase in the total number of SUE publications, as they have almost doubled (from 39.8% to 73.48%) in the decade studied.

Regarding innovative activity, the number of patents registered by the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (SPTO) has been decreasing significantly since 2014 (when the maximum value of the series was reached, with 665 patents). In 2020, it reached its minimum value and has risen slightly in subsequent years, reaching a total of 232 patents in 2022, the last year of the study. 

The IUNE Observatory is supported by the (Spanish) Ministry of Universities, as well as by a large number of institutions such as the (Spanish) National Quality Assessment and Accreditation Agency (ANECA, in its Spanish acronym), the Spanish University Rectors’ Conference (CRUE, in its Spanish acronym), the Centre for  Industrial Technological Development  (CDTI, in its Spanish acronym), the Catalan University System Quality Agency (AQU Catalunya, in its Spanish acronym) and the Basque University System Quality Agency (Unibasq, in its Spanish acronym).

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