Bulgarian College Students Rebel against Budget Cuts

Education | October 20, 2010, Wednesday // 14:40|  views

Students from Sofia University protest looming budget cuts that have turned into harsh reality for Bulgarian higher learning institutions. The sign reads "We Are the Future; Djankov and Ignatov Are the End." Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's university students staged a protest Wednesday over radical cuts in state funding for higher education.

The students gathered in front of the Council of Ministers building in downtown Sofia holding signs and banners reading "We Are the Future; Djankov and Ignatov Are the End," "Enough with Short-sighted Policies," "Priority for Knowledge," Education at the Budget's Bottom, State at Europe's Bottom," and others.

On Tuesday, the President of the University of Sofia, Bulgaria's oldest and most prestigious institution, Ivan Ilchev, stated the school is ready to voice "its academic concern" on November 1. The protest is expected to be joined by other schools.

Also on Tuesday, the Council of University Presidents met Education Minister Sergey Ignatov and demanded at least BGN 24 M more state funding than what is previewed for budget 2011, after a drastic cut of more than 20% was introduced in 2010. At Tuesday's meetings, university presidents expressed outrage at what is happening and questioned the willingness of the cabinet to invest in Bulgaria's future.

What is more alarming is the fact that the same amount for university funding is previewed in the Ministry of Finance budget framework for 2011-2013.

Funds for technical schools and military academies have been inexplicably raised, while leaving medical schools, art academies and regular universities severely underfunded.

Sofia University students demonstrating Wednesday demanded BGN 6 M in order to be able to finish the winter semester without having to go on a forced break.

The participants in the rally say they firmly oppose the three consecutive budget cuts over the course of one year – August, 2009; April, 2010, and August, 2010.

Students submitted a declaration with the Education Ministry, demanding the subsidies for State colleges and universities to be kept at the level from budget 2010 before the 20% cuts and the approving of long-term adequate budgets for science and education.

The demonstrators, shouting "You Are Burying the Sofia University; You are Burying Us," "Why the Police," declined Ignatov's invitation to meet with him, and asked that he appears in person outside to publically state his position so that it is heart by everyone.

Ignatov told the media earlier Wednesday he was optimistic the crisis in financing the education sector could be dealt with, and rejected accusations coming from Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov, he is partial and biased when slating funds for different colleges and universities.

On Tuesday, the Minister promised that at least student scholarships and stipends will be funded with the new budget, something that students were extremely worried about.

A number of universities are considering closure for the winter months - something unprecedented in Bulgarian history - as well as cuts in meager professor salaries.

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Tags: universities, higher education, Sergei Ignatov, Simeon Djankov, Sofia University, budget cuts, Ivan Ilchev, protest


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