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Spain has set out to modernise its universities by: promoting excellence in education and research; internationalising the university system; and ensuring its involvement in the economy by providing knowledge and innovative improvements. These aims are all encapsulated in the University Strategy 2015 – an initiative coordinated between the Government of Spain, the Autonomous Regions and the universities – seeking to “improve university education and research by adjusting these to suit social needs and demands, as well as to bolster the international dimension”. In concrete terms, the University Strategy 2015 aims for Spain’s best universities to be ranked among the top 100 in Europe, to promote the most competitive Spanish university campuses world-wide, and to help improve the quality of services provided by the entire Spanish university system.
One practical step has been the creation of Fundaci?n Universidad.es, a newly established Spanish agency for the internationalisation and promotion of Spanish higher education (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, May 2009). A second step is the International Excellence Campus initiative, which – in a first round - called on Spanish universities to present strategic plans on how to become an internationally known Campus de Excelencia. The call was closed on 8 September, receiving answers from 50 universities: 84 percent of the public and one third of the private ones (the latter are not eligible to receive financial backing from the government). After a first administrative revision, a technical committee will pre-select the best 15 proposals, which will receive up to EUR 200 000 to elaborate their ideas. Following a public presentation in November 2009, an expert commission will select the winners. The Autonomous Regions, in which the successful universities are based, will receive a total of EUR 150 million from the Ministry of Education, plus an additional EUR 53 million, part of which comes from the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Lofty goals and long roads – it remains to be seen if the Spanish quest for excellence is successful. It is certainly worth following.