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Xavier Pons, Dean of the Faculty of Law: "In times of crisis and uncertainty, the University has to influence society"

"An important element of our academic offering is that we have international degrees."

"An important element of our academic offering is that we have international degrees."

"There is a great amount of lecturers in the Faculty that are members of research groups and have a high scientific performance."

"There is a great amount of lecturers in the Faculty that are members of research groups and have a high scientific performance."

"Apart from necessary, we see the new building as a great window to opportunities."

"Apart from necessary, we see the new building as a great window to opportunities."



The Dean of the Faculty of Law, professor of Public International Law, Xavier Pons, is expert on public international law, international organizations, European community law, human health and food safety. He worked as international legal consultant of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and published many monographs, collective works and numerous articles in specialized journals in the field of international law, especially on the United Nations and the European Union. In the University of Barcelona, he has held the position of Vice-President and acting President for the Law, Economics and Social Division, and Secretary General, from 2005 to 2008. In this interview, he talks about his work leading the Faculty in a moment marked by construction and the setting up of the new building, which has to respond the learning and research needs of the centre.

The construction of the Faculty of Law starts next year, with more than 16.000 square meters, added to the buildings of the center and broadening its potential. 

This new building responds to a historical demand of the Faculty: we have been aware of this issue for more than seventeen years. Eventually, if the current economic circumstances are still very complex, we will have the new building, which will support teaching for the five bachelors of the Faculty, with more than 7.000 students. Among other needs, it responds to the situation of the bachelor degree of Industrial Relations, which was taught in carrer d’Ortigosa, under poor conditions; it later moved to carrer de Còrsega, and it’s been five years since it is now located in the Barcelona Knowledge Campus, but outside the Faculty. With the new building, this degree will be taught within the context of our centre and will create positive synergies with the other degrees.

The new building will have a room for court simulations or a courtroom, and a room for mediation sessions, to enable students carry out more practical activities: they will play the role of a lawyer, prosecutor, judge; they will take mediation sessions and lawsuits, international negotiation simulations or, for instance, political negotiations, which can be useful for students of Political Sciences; or social negotiations, appropriate for the students of Industrial Relations. Also, the students of Law and Criminology will take practical lessons of interrogation or care and advice service to crime victims, and a long list of many training possibilities. All these elements provide an added value to the educational activity we carry out here in the Faculty. The new building, apart from the rooms, has three more buildings for the seminars and staff offices. The Ilerdense building, where the lecturers are now, was not designed to have offices, it is not appropriate and we need to move to another building.

What are the expectations for the new building? 

Apart from necessary, we see it as a great window to opportunities. With this potential, I think we have to become a kind of figurehead in the bow of the university boat. The University cannot turn its back to society. The Faculty of Law cannot be closed to social agents: law schools, trial attorneys, notaries, professional offices, the private business sector, the third sector of social entities or, in general, public administrations; that is, all agents our graduates will work with. These agents have to see us as a Faculty that educates, prepares the best professionals in our fields of specialization, and prepares people committed to society and democratic values, and does so by interacting with social agents.

This means our teaching staff has to have a greater social outreach. One of our bets is, precisely, to make our research more and more known outside our walls. In times of political, economic, territorial crisis, moments of uncertainty such as the current ones, we cannot turn our back to these problems: the University has to influence society. This means carrying out basic and applied research, experimental, in the fields of chemistry, physics or biology, of course; but mostly, in the sense I want to emphasize: research to the dimension we work with, to social, legal and political dimension, in the way of organizing society, in the improvement of their conditions and the articulation to make it more democratic, fair and equal.

How would you characterize the education in the Faculty?

In the Faculty we teach five bachelor degrees: Law, Industrial Relations, Criminology, Political and Administration Science, and Public Management and Administration. And we could even say there is a sixth degree, the bachelor in Security in the Institute of Public Security of Catalonia, but supervised from the Faculty. Two of these degrees, -Law and Political and Administration Science- have the excellent accreditation from the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency. The former got the excellent accreditation in the six items assessed by AQU, and the latter is the only degree in this theme excellence qualification in the entire Catalan university system. Our aim is to keep these accreditations of excellence and to get the other degrees, which also passed those accreditations with good scores, to reach the excellence label.

It’s true that our main bachelor of the Faculty –because it’s the oldest and most important one regarding the number of students- is the one on Law, but we want to strengthen the others and a way to do so is with dual degrees. At this moment, we have two dual degrees in the Faculty (Law and Political Sciences, and Public Management and Administration) and another with the Faculty of Economics and Business (Business Administration and Management and Law). In the academic year 2018-2019 –already approved of by the Governing Council- we will have the dual degrees in Law and Industrial Relations, and Law and Criminology, which we believe respond to a certain demand by particularly interested people.

Another important element of our academic offering is that we have international degrees. At this moment, we have a dual-degree program with two American universities. This allows our students, or American students, to course the bachelor in Law and master’s degree in Legal Practice in Barcelona, and at the same time, the equivalent juris doctor in American universities, so they can later enter the processional activity both in Spain and the United States. We want to enlarge these programs with other North American universities, from the United States and Canada.

Furthermore, we are thinking of a global design for official master degrees, UB-specific master degrees and postgraduate studies offered at the Faculty. If official master degrees go under verification processes, we want UB-specific master degrees –which do not undergo these processes- to gather the same quality requirements. In this sense, we are designing a global education offering for postgraduate studies that covers all themes related to the studies in the Faculty.

Last, I want to say that there is a lot of research carried out at the Faculty. Personally, the teaching staff can carry out quality and innovative research if there is an important amount of research behind; in my opinion, these are two dimensions that tend to be inseparable.

What is this research like at the Faculty?

Research on Law, Political Sciences, Criminology, these fields of social sciences, is sometimes hard to understand, even for colleagues at the University. In fact, the audience thinks research is like the one in experimental sciences: a laboratory, discoveries, a new physics theory on the Universe, stem cell applications, molecular adaptations… Our research is about legal, social and political reality, which revolves around our societies. That is, we carry out research on the content and extent of legal rules and their legal application, on the situation and evolution of political and constitutional systems, legal and political functioning of the international system –and the European one in particular-, on the territorial organization of the State, the role and action of local governments, the legal cover of consumer rights, on the response of law when facing ethical dilemmas presented by the advances in biomedical sciences, on the agenda and public policies in Catalonia, Spain, Europe and the world, the actions and advances in penal and criminological matters, on social and labour rights in times of crisis, or for instance, on the consequences of the labour reform. In this sense, our research object is wide and diverse and we have more than fifteen consolidated research groups in the Faculty, recognized by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

There is a great amount of lecturers in the Faculty that are members of research groups and have a high scientific performance, which comes to monographs, book chapters and articles in journals that are not usually in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Some researchers publish in these JCR journals but not in general. Regarding the topics we work with, we tend to publish our work in specialized journals and with equal high quality standards, but in other fields, in which the knowledge we generate is more transferable because it is more useful, it has receptors and offers answers.

Also, when we research on some regulations or public policies, what we try to do is to show the underlying social tensions, and therefore we contribute to the evolution of society, so it progresses, changes rules, guides public policies in a different way, or improves the socio-legal system and its conditions.

What are the lines of action in this field?

Over the last months we mapped the research carried out at the Faculty. I think, in general, if we compare other faculties of Law from other universities around here, we are positively listed regarding research. But it can always get better. Our idea is to promote –even more- with the new building, the activity of different groups, different observatories and research institutes and chairs (UNESCO Chair, Jean Monnet Chair, Adecco Chair); in short, to promote different structures of research affiliated to the Faculty. I am sure that if there is more institutional support with all this, we can create a multiplying effect to feed new potentialities.

I think this multiplying effect is absolutely necessary. The future of our University, our Faculty, depends on the research we carry out, and therefore, on us bringing society this differential qualitative element representing the University, which allows us to catch talents and new young values to study university degrees. Since half of the teaching and research staff in the Faculty –and the entire University of Barcelona- is retiring, there is no wonder we have to get young people entering the university, with intellectual curiosity, encouraged people. And young people can enter thanks to research project but mostly, with teaching policies that ease recruitment, training, retention, stabilization and promotion of talent.



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