Tuition fees at Czech universities?

Charles University - Karolinum

Who should pay for university education is a vexed question in many countries. University education has always been free in the Czech Republic but many say the university system is in need of reform and some suggest the only way to do that is to introduce tuition fees. Pavla Horakova has more.

Although a number of new universities have been established since 1989 and the capacity of the old ones has increased, the percentage of the population with a university education is still lower than in other developed countries. Many young people try to enrol repeatedly but there are simply not enough places for them. As usual, it all comes down to money. Some politicians think the introduction of tuition fees might improve the situation. Opposition MP Petr Mateju, one of most outspoken critics of the country's education system, is putting forward a new law on the financing of university education.

"First of all, tuition will increase motivation of students to work harder, will motivate universities to provide programmes which will fit better the labour market and both sides will definitely, and that's my strong belief, balance as every investment system the demand and supply and that's extremely important."

The bill has some staunch opponents, including the ruling Social Democrat party and its youth section the Young Social Democrats. The party says that tuition fees would make education inaccessible to young people from families with lower incomes. And bank loans, they say, would only mean a burden to young people and the banks would benefit more than the universities themselves. Martin Skoda is the manager of the Young Social Democrats' campaign against tuition fees.

"We think that education is for everybody, that all people should be equal and the access to education should be equal. We think that school fees is a social barrier. Another thing is that banks will be the only one who will get money from the school fees. Most of the money will come to banks and to the state because the state has to organise it."

Those who support the proposals say tuition fees would deter perpetual students who only study to enjoy the benefits of being a student. They say the proposed law will motivate those who really want to study and obtain an education that will increase their chances on the labour market. However Petr Mateju says the chances of the law being passed before the upcoming elections are small.