Annenberg professor named Spain’s minister of universities

Manuel Castells has taught communications at USC since 2003 and holds appointments in four USC schools. He also serves as professor emeritus of sociology at the UC Berkeley. (Photo courtesy of Fronteiras do Pensamento)

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism professor Manuel Castells has been named minister of universities of Spain’s new government, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Sunday. Castells, who lived in Spain as a child before fleeing the Franco regime during his adolescence, assumed his new position Monday.

As minister, he will oversee Spain’s 50 public universities, monitoring their finances and policy. 

Former minister of education adviser Jose Martinez-Sierra told Times Higher Education that the primary issue facing the Spanish educational system will be balancing the nation’s commitment to accessible education with maintaining the quality of its public postsecondary institutions, but it is a task he believes Castells is suited to. 

“If someone has the legitimacy, vision and capacity to undertake it, that is Professor Castells,” Martinez-Sierra said.

Castells also serves in the Department of Sociology, the School of International Relations and the School of Policy, Planning and Development, in addition to retaining his role as professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, where he taught for 24 years before coming to USC in 2003.

A prominent sociologist, Castells was the most cited communication researcher and the fourth most cited social scientist in 2015 following a 15-year study by the Social Sciences Citation Index. 

The appointment comes at a time of transition for Spain. The constitutional monarchy’s congress elected Sánchez last week after the victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in the November general election, and he has since begun to assemble his government’s Council of Ministers. 

In an interview with USC News, Castells said he believed accepting the position as minister of universities to be his moral duty but acknowledged that his passion lay in teaching and research.

“Sometimes, as I have in the past, I hear an ethical call that compels me to serve for the benefit of humankind — be it in Spain, in the United States, in Europe and in the world at large,” Castells said. “I look forward to returning to my academic life after making a contribution to public service in the midst of a fundamental crisis of sustainability, democracy and moral values.”

During his tenure as minister of universities, Castells will take a leave of absence from his position at the University, USC News reported.