The endorsement of a new Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alicante (UA) has produced conflicting social responses, understandable from biases implied by different criteria and core interests in each case. The decision affects not only the image and budget of universities, but also the functioning of public hospitals, and most importantly, the training of future doctors and the health services of our citizens. The bewildered viewer, who is more interested in the needs of daily life and cannot adequately interpret the plot explosions that accompany such a decision, can only position itself by giving emotional reactions.
The creation of UA in 1979 after long and sustained efforts from the Alicante community was a happy collective success for the City and State. The rector’s dedication to the Faculty of Medicine made him stand out in a short time with his scientific and health contributions, as well as a successful and devastating Education Plan. Lack of room for growth aspirations led to UA’s relocations to the new Sant Joan d’Alacant Campus, depriving teachers and students of the enriching exchange of ideas and interests with the rest of the Degrees.
With the change of Government in the Commonwealth of Valencia in 1995, personal tensions were to come between Consel’s new President and the then-Rector of the UA, who was an advocate of university autonomy at all costs. In a rare context, Consell decided to create the University of Elche to which the UA School of Medicine would be added, and that is through administrative separation. Preferred by several Departments and some—like the undersigned—considering the increase in socio-cultural development this could produce in Elche’s society, as indeed UA created in Alicante.
The dissociation was an emotional tear for all of UA, not only because of its unprecedented origin, but also because of its academic ramifications. The appeal was dismissed when the court found that “the decision was valid, but not optimal, as the principle of corporate loyalty was violated”.
UA’s request for a new Faculty of Medicine approved by ANECA had been waiting for a response from Consell for six years. After a deliberate delay and with pre-prepared answers, his decision was made public, providing reasons and data from a generous, though narrow-minded as it was local, perspective. Given the medical school’s recovery, the satisfaction shown by the UA, and shared by both the city’s political parties and municipal neighborhood boards, is understandable, among others.
In fact, the Faculty of Medicine has never been in Elche, but since it has always been segregated in the administrative center of the Elche GNA, so its students go to Alicante Hospitals, Sant Joan, through an Agreement. d’Alacant and Elche will attend training. In this context, it is not surprising that the Student Delegation has expressed concern about the impact of joint hospital practices on the development and on their own professional future. It is equally understandable that the Rector of our University and the Dean of Medicine did not agree with the announced decision, considering that it did not comply with the academic and scientific criteria. They also remember that, given the Rector’s proposal to increase the number of Elche GNAs by 80, establishing a new Faculty is much more expensive in the short and long term than increasing the number of places in existing Faculties.
The relevant existing work of institutions such as the National Conference of Deans, Medical Collegiate Organization, Medical Profession Forum, Alicante College of Physicians, State Council of Medical Students or Associations cannot be ignored. All insist on the importance of co-ordination with the Administration to determine the number of real medical professionals who need adequate health care, because the high demand for these studies is not a good criterion for this. It has been documented that for decades, Spain has been one of the countries with the highest number of doctors per thousand inhabitants and is the second in the number of Faculties as stated by the OECD. In this scenario, 12,062 applications were received in the MIR 2022 call for 8,188 places, of which nearly four thousand did not enter.
The number of places in question is based on the annual budget allocated to it and the post-pandemic new paradigm must first increase the number of places according to the needs of the Country and Autonomous Communities to match the number of applicants. The new paradigm also requires a determined commitment to Primary Care, prioritizing the necessary adaptation that has been demanded for years by various groups and professional associations.
However, given the fact that there is a fait accompli in which two Medical Schools are so close and related with the available data, a study on predictable results and necessary commitments is required so that the expected results cannot be achieved anymore. The least damage, but the greatest possible benefit for our City. The intellectual propensity of both Universities to share knowledge, pool common interests, and avoid inappropriate competition for budgetary allocations is evident.
But it would be nice if they weren’t left alone on this and someone from Consell to put together another “Guideline for the Confused”, which was to mark some agreed-upon goals. In this sense, the responsible ministries can present a work schedule that indicates a joint or dual Degree, which is not a very difficult goal today. Also, if Consell pays “that 43 million” to the City Council with another political decision, everything will be more aesthetic.
Considering that we face a challenge to the social acumen of the people of Alicante, we empathize with our two Universities from the street, so we bet that both Institutions will contribute to continuing to overcome old provincial attitudes.