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ENOHE News 2008 / 1

Spain: University Ombudsmen Declaration Signed

During the 10th annual conference of the Spanish network
of university ombudsmen in Madrid in late October 2007
the “La Granja Declaration” (named after La Granja de
San Ildefonso, approx. 60 kilometres to the Northwest of
Madrid) was presented and since then signed by many
Spanish university ombudsmen.
The La Granja Declaration
In Europe, the institution of the University Ombudsman
has its roots in the figure of the Public Ombudsman and,
in our country, in the Defensor del Pueblo [Ombudsman]
and in other similar autonomous regional Institutions established
following the Constitution of 1978. They all share
the principles of independence, confidentiality, transparency
and defence of rights as a guarantee of equality
for all people.
Following the entry into force of the Ley de Reforma Universitaria
[Spanish University Reform Act] in 1983, several
Spanish universities made use of their newfound right to
self-government and established the figure of the Defensor
Universitario (DU) [University Ombudsman]. However,

During the 10th annual conference of the Spanish network of university ombudsmen in Madrid in late October 2007 the “La Granja Declaration” (named after La Granja de San Ildefonso, approx. 60 kilometres to the Northwest of Madrid) was presented and since then signed by many Spanish university ombudsmen.

The La Granja Declaration

In Europe, the institution of the University Ombudsman has its roots in the figure of the Public Ombudsman and, in our country, in the Defensor del Pueblo [Ombudsman] and in other similar autonomous regional Institutions established following the Constitution of 1978. They all share the principles of independence, confidentiality, transparency and defence of rights as a guarantee of equality for all people.

Following the entry into force of the Ley de Reforma Universitaria [Spanish University Reform Act] in 1983, several Spanish universities made use of their newfound right to self-government and established the figure of the Defensor Universitario (DU) [University Ombudsman]. However, it was not until the mid-nineties that this Institution began to extend. In 2001, the Ley Orgánica de Universidades [Spanish Universities Act] made it compulsory to implement the institution of the University Ombudsman in the organisational structure of universities. As a result, this institution is now active in 54 public and private universities throughout Spain. The Reform to the Spanish Universities

Act of April 2007 holds the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) verbatim.

Furthermore, the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) exists in some other European countries, working together in a network called European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE). The latter organises annual Conferences which facilitate the contact and the exchange of experiences. Within this context, Spain is the country of the European Union with the largest presence and tradition as regards the University Ombudsman, having become an innovative point of reference in this field for the building of the European Higher Education Area(EHEA).

Following the experience provided during the last 20 years, we can safely say that the institution of the University Ombudsman (DU) is now recognised as an element that improves both the culture of responsibility and trust between the members of the university community. It is also admitted that its independent, nonexecutive, position makes the University Ombudsman (DU) a decisive factor in the improvement, not only of the university institution itself, but also of the duality between university independence and fincnaical accountability to society. We must not forget that the raison d´être of Universities is to respond to the needs and requirements of society, and that our society wishes universities to be increasingly open and supportive, real fosterers of values, as well as capable of providing education of the highest excellence which, therefore, will contribute to the creation of knowledge. The following are a few of the most noteworthy aspects of the work undertaken by the University Ombudsmen (DU):

To defend the rights of the members of the university community by trying to harmonise the various and different interests as well as by mediating between the parties.

To encourage and promote a culture of ethics in the academic field.

To promote, and provide an incentive through action to new codes that may improve the scope of university relations and coexistence.

To improve the various regulations that the universities have provided themselves with in the use of their selfgovernment.

To contribute to the improvement of quality in higher education according to the resolutions, reports, monographs and annual records issued by the Ombudsmen, and submitted to the respective university governing bodies.

Considering the experience gained over the years, it seems necessary to us to introduce certain improvements that will increase the effectiveness of the work undertaken by the Ombudsman. In this respect, we consider it to be important to increase the resources available to the University Ombudsman (DU), as well as his/her work to be explicitly recognised at the University. This will doubtlessly enable a better functioning and consolidation for the institution. We should not forget that University Ombudsmen lack executive power and, consequently, rely on the authorities. For this reason, it is advisable to provide this Institution with enough means and resources so that all University Ombudsmen may be able to exercise their functions appropriately and always from an independent standpoint.

In view of the above, the undersigned hereby URGE the Chancellors and persons responsible for the various administrations (with assistance from the Spanish Ministry of Education and respecting the spirit of the recent reform to the Spanish Universities Act, 2007) to proceed with providing the necessary means and resources that may enable a better functioning of the University Ombudsman (DU). If this can be done, the figure of the University Ombudsman (DU) will be definitely strengthened, and, above all, Higher Education as a whole will be provided with an important instrument for the improvement of quality in the educational system.

La Granja de San Ildefonso, October 2007

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