Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Spain: The social dimension under the microscope

Late September saw the release of a first-of-its-kind study in the Spanish context. Known by its Spanish initials as ECoViPEU, this survey on the conditions of student life and participation in the universities of Spain was conducted by the Observatory of Student Life and Participation, housed at the University of Valencia, and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education. The survey was completed by some 45 100 students from 50 universities across the country and was designed to generate clearer information on the profile of Spanish university students (particularly in terms of family educational circumstances), the details of their academic and social experiences in higher education, and various other aspects of their relationship to university life.

The findings of the ECoViPEU study (along with those of EUROSTUDENT IV, to which approximately 6 000 Spanish students contributed data – please see the relevant article in this edition of the ACA Newsletter) indicate that universities are making some positive progress towards increased inclusivity across the spectrum of Spanish society, but work remains to be done. For example, 51% of surveyed students have (or had) parents with either “low” (ISCED 0-2) or “medium” (ISCED 3-4) levels of education, indicating a degree of social mobility in play. Still, the other 49% of the surveyed students have (or had) parents with higher levels of education (ISCED 5-6). When compared with the Spanish population at large, students with these more highly educated family profiles are clearly overrepresented in the university student body. Meanwhile, most students (89%) enter higher education through “traditional routes”, two out of three surveyed students are under 25 years of age, and more than half (54%) are full-time students. These figures indicate that the Spanish university system may not be as flexible (and therefore not as socially inclusive) as in other parts of Europe. For example in the Nordic countries, there are comparatively more alternative paths to enrolment, enrolment rates of non-traditional age groups are more robust and both part- and full-time enrolment patterns are common. In light of these findings, the Observatory particularly urges Spanish universities to develop new and diverse pathways to higher education.

Beyond the issue of participation as an equity issue, ECoViPEU also provides insight into other aspects of student participation in university life. For example, the survey sheds light on the number of hours students devote to study per week (42 on average), and living arrangements (75% live with family or spouses/partners). Also included are findings on the perceptions of the “new methodologies” for teaching, learning and student engagement being implemented by Spanish universities, such as working in teams, completing traineeships, and using web-based technologies and programmes. Here, the majority of respondents find these approaches to be “valuable” or “very valuable”.
Campus Vivendi - Observatory of Student Life and Participation (in Spanish)

Ministry of Education (in Spanish)