The University of Barcelona is the main public university in Catalonia, one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Spain and, according to the most influential university rankings, it is listed among the top 150 universities worldwide. Of its 70,000 students, 15% are international students. Therefore, it is logical to understand that the UB feels strongly committed to the use, development, study and promotion of the Catalan language as its academic language, while at the same time, it aims to promote multilingualism among the members of its community.
With this dual aim, the Governing Council of the UB approved two plans last week: on the one hand, the UB Plan for Languages 2022-2025 (the fourth of these plans launched to date); and on the other, the UB Reception plan for Catalan language and culture, the first one designed at the UB to fit the institution’s internationalization with the promotion of its own and official language.
"These two projects are absolutely intertwined and necessary", says the vice-rector for Institutional Relations, Communication and Language Policy, Jordi Matas, "because, as stated in our Statute, the University of Barcelona has to promote the Catalan language and has to contribute to the incorporation of the UB’s own language into all fields of knowledge". Matas points out that "it has to be compatible with the will to promote the internationalization of our institution" and that it is possible "by doing our work well and moving in that direction".
Objectives and commitments
The UB Plan for languages gathers, on the one hand, the commitment to promote the three official languages in Catalonia: Catalan, Spanish and Occitan, and it makes it compatible with promoting knowledge and the use of a third language. The achievement of this dual objective is deployed in the 114 actions of the Plan, related to quality, competences and language uses applied to the different fields of development of university activity: institutional information and communication, management and administration, teaching and research, knowledge transfer and scientific dissemination.
"In the teaching field", notes Jordi Matas, "the Plan puts a special emphasis on the need to guarantee the students’ language rights, which includes training teaching staff to use Catalan and Spanish in their teaching and academic activities". Matas stresses that "the actions included in this Plan also respond to the commitment adopted by the rectors of the Catalan public universities to strengthen their own and official language in all the fields of the university activity, and to promote its use in research, knowledge transfer and scientific dissemination, fields in which it has undergone a decline".
"The creation of the Plan for languages has been a task that has included the participation of many people. For this reason, it has benefited from a wide knowledge of the university community and the language needs from the different collectives that build it", notes the rector’s delegate for Language Policy and Publications, Joan Santanach. "The involvement of the students, the AdSS and TRS in the creation process has been at its highest level —continues Santanach— and the experts of the Language Services deserve a special mention, since they provided knowledge, expertise and dedication". "Starting with an initial list of objectives and actions, the four commissions met, one for each main area, in order to analyse proposals, expand them and refine them when necessary", he says. "The result is an ambitious plan, which must enable the University to face the language challenges with guarantees", he concludes.
Internationalization and reception
At the same Governing Council session, the UB’s Reception plan for the Catalan language and culture was approved as well. With more than 10,000 international members and many agreements with universities worldwide, this Plan aims to ease the incorporation of these members from outside the Catalan language territory into the academic life, and therefore, harmonize the internationalization commitment with the preservation of the language rights of the local community.
From this perspective, the vice-rector for Internationalization Policy, Raúl Ramos, states: "The diversity brought by the presence of international students to our rooms is very enriching in every sense. This is why it is also our responsibility to welcome them and accompany them in their integration into our community". He emphasises: "In this way, we will make sure that the vital experience that represents the international mobility is not only limited to the academic field but also the cultural and social spheres".
Ramos explains that the Plan follows the strategic line presented by the League of European Research Universities (LERU), to which the UB belongs as the only Spanish university: "In the document Language Policies at the LERU member institutions, LERU mentions as a key element, that the formulation of institutional language policies should result from participatory processes, placing the responsibility of implementation to the highest level of leadership". "Moreover", says the vice-rector, "it urges the higher education institutions of non-English-speaking areas to take a position on the use of English as a second language for teaching, research and administration, as well as to preserve the national language and provide language services for members or guests with special needs.
In this sense, the new regulation is structured into different actions: providing information on the sociolinguistic situation and the language uses of the UB; ensuring that information on language requirements for studying and working at the UB is transparent and consistent with the data on the language of instruction in each faculty; encouraging online and face-to-face learning of Catalan before arriving at the University, and providing the university community with a package of free resources for learning Catalan, among other measures.