Bulgaria Students Rally against Austerity Measures

Education | October 28, 2010, Thursday // 07:55|  views

Students from Sofia University protest on October 20 against 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 are coming out to protest Thursday as university rectors are pressing demands for at least a partial back off from proposed radical cuts in state funding for higher education.

The students insist that the government allots no less than 1.13% of the country's GDP for funding higher education.

Earlier this month the Council of University Rectors 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.

What is more alarming, 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.

At the meeting, minister Ignatov said that he will try to persuade cabinet and Minister of Finance Simeon Djankov to find more funds for education and research.

This is an interesting recent tendency on the part of Ignatov, who has up to now defended the idea that universities should be operate on a self-invented "market principle". During the debate for budget 2010, it was Ignatov himself who pressed for lower funding for state universities.

The minister has 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.

Sofia University, Bulgaria's oldest and most prestigious institution, is planning a protest November 1, which is expected to be joined by other schools.

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


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