Reasons to delay the retirement age at university


It is objectively true, as supported by facts, figures and surveys among its users, that our public health and university systems are reasonably efficient. Even more so considering the limited resources they have.

Likewise, it is no less true that both have suffered budgetary and personnel hiring restrictions in recent years. Such cuts have led to a worsening of some indicators of their level of performance. For example, the increase in waiting lists in healthcare or the loss of positions of Spanish universities in the most recognized international academic rankings.

These are aspects that, logically, concern the Administration and the general public, especially those who make most use of these systems: elderly people, in the health system, and young people, in the university system.

Mass retirements are coming

The professional staff of both systems are very well qualified thanks to the public system’s great investment in preparing its professionals. Also for the knowledge and experiences accumulated by them during years of professional practice. This represents a valuable asset in the performance of its service to society.

Now, the age pyramids of these workforces indicate that a good part of those who make them up, perhaps half, will retire in the next ten years .

This massive retirement of highly capable people puts the level of excellence of both public systems at risk. Also the opportunity for a renewal that combines youth with experience, essential in any human team.

Another factor at play is the increase in the life expectancy of the Spanish population: according to INE data , since the seventies it has increased more than a decade, going from 72 years in 1970 to 83 in 2022. This compromises sustainability . of the public pension system .

For this reason, the Administration has contemplated in other public service professions with similar characteristics in terms of qualification requirements and value of experience, such as judges and magistrates, an extension of the maximum retirement age up to 72 years , always in a manner voluntary.

In this sense, several Autonomous Communities have urgently demanded, before the Human Resources Commission of the Interministerial Council of the National Health System, the possibility of increasing the voluntary retirement age of doctors to 72 years .

In our opinion, the measure is justified for the reasons stated above, as it would help guarantee the maintenance and improvement of care for the fraction of the population represented by those who most need these services. Even more so considering that it is a growing fraction during the last decades. This is not only due to the increase in life expectancy, but also due to the reduction in the birth rate, which has fallen from 2.77 children per woman in 1975 to only 1.24 today, compromising the necessary rate. replacement.

Delay the retirement age at university

There is also a proposal, formulated by a large group of university professors and researchers, which is intended to be sent to the competent ministries.

It recalls the notable aging of university staff , where almost half of the chairs are occupied by professors over 60 years of age, who according to current legislation will retire in the next ten years at most.

Emphasis is also placed on the need to foresee the consequences of the lack of generational replacement and mass retirements on the worsening of many indicators that measure the positioning of Spanish universities on the international scene and the consideration of the studies taught there. .

It is important to keep in mind that the Spanish university is immersed in international changes and strategies, marked by European policies, which are essential to achieve a competitive university based on excellent teaching and research.

Currently, around 50 universities are in some phase of developing the research human resources strategy ( HRS4R ). Of them, 44 participate in the European Alliances to build the universities of the future.

More recently, with the approval of the European Agreement for the Reform of Research Assessment and the CoARA coalition , there are 46 participating universities and 50 participating in the National Chapter Spain , created specifically to address the reform in Spain and led by ANECA , CRUE and CSIC .

As can be seen, the size of these projects is enormous, with the role of senior staff being key to their success due to their valuable experience. Experience that will pave the way for new generations of teachers and researchers, helping to give the boost that the Spanish public university needs.

Always voluntary retirements

The proposal to extend the retirement age of teaching staff and research staff would be completely voluntary for anyone who requested it. Furthermore, it would grant the final say in the exercise of its autonomy to each university, which would evaluate it affirmatively only if it understands that the applicant can continue to make a valuable and clear contribution to the performance of the institution. Therefore, it would be far from the well-known “coffee for all.”

On the other hand, it is also insisted that this expansion must be inexorably accompanied by a determined policy of incorporating young talents, a very convenient and necessary combination of actions, which is why it must be undertaken urgently.

The Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities is no stranger to this and has proposed the hiring of 3,400 new doctoral assistant professors , a measure that will favor the attraction of young talent to the university system.

Therefore, the proposal would not go against the necessary modernization of the university, relaunched by the recently approved Organic Law of the University System , but in favor of guaranteeing the most favorable conditions for said modernization.

This would avoid creating a gap between the new generations, who have the vocational commitment and drive of youth, and the senior faculty, who would contribute their teaching experience and research solvency, increased during a long academic career.

Rescue a previous initiative

Finally, it is worth remembering a previous article in The Conversation on this topic . It indicated that in some of the most advanced countries in the world there is no limit to the retirement age, leaving it to the discretion of the faculty and the academic institution.

Also that in 2011 there was a legislative initiative in Spain that was finally pending development. It contemplated that some prestigious university professors, accredited by a high number of favorable evaluations of their teaching and research activity, could voluntarily retire at the age of 75, instead of at 70 as is the case now.

This measure derived from an amendment presented by Convergencia i Unió to Organic Law 4/2011 of March 11 , complementary to the Sustainable Economy Law. The amendment, once accepted by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, gave rise to the Second Additional Provision, which said:
“The Government, following a report from the Autonomous Communities and the Council of Universities, will promote the implementation, over the next six months, of mechanisms that facilitate the extension of active service, for a maximum period of five additional years. , of officials belonging to the university teaching bodies and research professors of the CSIC in whom exceptional merits are present.

This provision should be implemented without further delay. In fact, as the standard itself literally indicates, it should have been done before October 2011.

That is why we receive with satisfaction and hope the recent news that the Minister of Public Service, José Luis Escrivá, intends to bring civil servants closer to the situation that, in terms of retirement, already exists in the private sector. Thus, through a new measure, they could voluntarily retire earlier or work beyond the legal retirement age .

Hopefully the measure comes to fruition and is enacted in the coming months. Among other sectors, the public health and university systems will win. This will benefit all citizens, since both provide essential services for the progress and well-being of society.

Author Bios: Juan Francisco Juliá Igual is Professor of Agrarian Economics at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Juan Luis Arsuaga is Professor Paleontology. ISCIII-UCM Joint Center for Human Evolution and Behavior. Scientific director of the Museum of Human Evolution at Complutense University of Madrid, Paul Palmqvist Auger is Professor of Paleontology at the University of Malaga and Senena Corbalan Garcia is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology also at the University of Murcia