Universities need more funding

By Daniela Lazarova

Czech universities have commanded plenty of media attention of late. The gravity of their financial problems was brought to the fore when the rector of Charles University - the oldest university in Central Europe - threatened to resign if the Cabinet failed to find an extra two billion crowns which would enable universities to at least retain the present status quo. The Cabinet has now promised to deliver the money - but according to prof. Petr Kolar, the dean of the Arts Faculty, the problems run much deeper.

The two billion crowns is only the top of the iceberg. It doesn't solve much. The two billion is supposed to cover the increase in new students this year but it doesn't really solve the main problem. The main problem is the obsolete system of financing of Czech universities. Let me give you one figure -in Europe 1.7% of the GDP goes into higher education. In my country it's a mere 0,6% of the GDP. I think that is pretty revealing.

Education is obviously not a priority for this and former governments...where is the money most lacking?

"The short answer to that is : everywhere. We want more students. The public wants more students and universities could take in more students if they could develop. We are lacking literature, space, lecture rooms, computers. The salaries are pretty low. Let me give you another figure. At my faculty, which is the largest faculty at Charles University, the average monthly salary is about three hundred dollars. "

Is that not resulting in a brain drain? "Of course. When it comes to salaries we are not competitive. We cannot offer competitive salaries. It's happened to us that we could hire someone young, bright and so on ...from Brno and the guy found out that we were offering him half of what he makes in Brno. Which is a shame..."

Some right wing politicians feel that students should contribute more -financially - towards their education. Would that help or not?

"I would support that idea. But at this stage it is just an idea. We have to discuss ways of implementing it. I think everybody should contribute to his or her higher education but there must be a framework and we don't have that framework yet. "

How much more would you need this year in order to fulfill your goals?

"The two billion crowns would secure the current state of affairs at universities - meaning that if we get two billion crowns nothing will change. We will not be dying. But it would take about five billion crowns to give universities a boost and start some kind of development. "

Off. Prof. Petr Kolar, the dean of the Arts Faculty of Charles University