The OECD avaluates the role of universities in the development of Catalonia

The Higher Education in Regional and City Development. The Autonomous Region of Catalonia report has been presented in the Circle of Economy in Barcelona on April 8th. The report has been elaborated by the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and the Development (OECD) and stimulated by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP) and the Foundation CyD (Foundation Knowledge and Development). The report, elaborated by a group of international experts, contributes with extensive information about the role of the universities in the development of Catalonia and does recommendations in areas such as the human capital formation, the innovation system, and the cultural, social and environmental development.

The catalan minister of Economy and Knowledge, Andreu Mas-Colell; the first lieutenant of mayor of the Town hall of Barcelona, Jordi William Carnes; the rector of the UB and president of the ACUP, Dídac Ramirez; Martí Parellada, general coordinator of the CyD report (Foundation CyD); the coordinator of the Strategic Metropolitan Plan of Barcelona, Francesc Santacana; the person in charge of the program Higher Education in Regional and City Development of the OECD, Jaana Puukka; and Josep M. Vilalta, executive secretary of the ACUP were in the presentation. Josep M. Vilalta and Martí Parellada have been the project coordinators in Catalonia.

In the chapter where the education of the human capital of Catalonia is analyzed, there are some recommendations as, for example, that the State has to promote measures to reduce the economic barriers among the social groups least favored at the moment of acceding to the high education; that the universities and other economic and social actors have to elaborate a long-term strategy for the development of the human capital.

With regard to the transfer of knowledge, the report affirms that the Catalan universities have done a relevant progress for the generation of knowledge, but it is necessary to improve its diffusion. The report indicates that the model of innovation is focused on science and technology, and it represents a limitation for the mobilization of the universities for the social and cultural innovations. The report also affirms that it is necessary to balance the trend to the commercialization with collaborations between university and industry in a long-term. Finally, it recommends that the incentives should be reinforced in order the universities compromise themselves with research that has special interest for the region in which they are located. In the innovation chapter, the report aims for reforms in aspects such as the curricula of the investigators or the system of government of the universities. The report also points out that universities shall develop a regional model of transfer of knowledge based on the existing relation with industries.

As for the cultural and creative industries and the sustainable development in Catalonia, the report encourages the Catalan and Spanish governments to stimulate the work in these areas. It also recommends universities to develop a forum for the social, cultural and environmental development. With regard to the possibilities of reinforcing the role of universities in the development of the territory, the report recommends to plan a scheme of modernization of the universities governance system which establishes a platform of coordination for the high education in Catalonia. At the same time, the report aims to universities to prioritize the regional and local development and to collaborate between them in order to rationalize the offer of degrees and to continue developing joint programs of masters and PhD.

The report is part of the project Review of higher education and city development of Catalonia, which has to  reinforce the relations between the universities and the different actors of the economic and social sectors. In the first phase of the project there was elaborated a Self-Evaluation Report in Catalonia, directed by a representatives' committee of several institutions of the country, between them rectors and presidents of the Social Councils of the Catalan universities, representatives of the institutions implied (Town hall of Barcelona, Strategic Metropolitan Plan of Barcelona, Autonomous government of Catalonia), representatives of the managerial associations and social agents. The second phase is the elaboration of the report which has been presented, elaborated for a group of international experts. The project to analyze the situation in Catalonia is part of the program Higher Education in Regional and City Development of the OECD, who has been carried out similar studies in more than twenty countries.