Funding crisis for Czech universities

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The Czech Republic's education crisis appeared to take a turn for the worse this week, after the government announced that it would not be giving universities promised extra funding. The Czech Republic has a relatively low number of university graduates compared to Western Europe, and the Social Democrat government seems reluctant to make any reforms in the Ministry of Education. Helen Belmont has more.

During the debate on the budget, universities were promised an extra 2 billion Czech crowns to increase the number of students enrolled. After several thousand new students were admitted, however, the government withheld the allocated money, citing a shortage of funds. Czech universities were then forced to dig into their own coffers in order to cover the costs of the 50,000 extra students who entered the university system this year. I spoke to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Education and Science, Dr. Petr Mares, who is a member of the opposition Freedom Union party. I asked him if any other measures, such as implementing tuition fees, could be taken to provide the necessary funds:

"Of course, that's one of the ways. But I am afraid that for the Social Democratic government, it's an unacceptable way. So the only way which they will be looking for is to find money in some other programs, and it will be very, very difficult. But still, I am sure that it's possible even to do it according to their standards. It means to not talking about fees, about tuition, but to cut down some other programs. I believe there are many of them which don't need as much money as they plan to invest in them. I mean in other fields, not in education."

Dr. Mares concedes that the government is not doing enough to educate its young people. I asked him whether he thinks that this government will do anything in terms of reform before the next election:

"Well, I don't think so. For some peculiar reason, un-understandable for me, they do not care much about university education. So they will probably try to do something for elementary schools. First of all, to raise salaries for teachers of elementary schools. But I don't think that they will be able to prepare some reasonable program for the university."

Author: Helen Belmont
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