Czech University Academics Plan Strike Over Underfunding Concerns

Academics from Czech universities, organized under the “Hour of Truth” initiative, which comprises teachers and students of humanities and social sciences, have announced plans for a strike in October to protest against the chronic underfunding of universities. While the strike is initially planned for one day, union representatives have not ruled out the possibility of longer protests if their demands are not met.

The primary reason for the strike, as stated by the initiative, is the inadequate funding of universities, a situation that they believe is not being adequately addressed by the government and the Ministry of Education. They are concerned that the underfunding trend may continue into 2024, based on state budget proposals and political statements.

The academics point out that the share of spending on higher education in the state budget has reached an all-time low, falling from 0.66% of GDP in 2009 to 0.42% of GDP this year. The 2024 budget proposal from the Finance Ministry even suggests a year-on-year reduction in the Education Ministry’s budget, although Education Minister Mikulas Bek has stated that the budget for science and higher education in 2024 will not decrease compared to this year.

Members of the Hour of Truth initiative argue that maintaining the current level of university funding represents a continuation of the long-term underfunding issue. Additionally, they point out that due to inflation, spending on higher education will effectively decrease.

The humanities and social sciences faculties, which are among the most underfunded, face a “catastrophic” financial situation, leading to low salaries for staff. This has prompted some academics to leave for positions in primary and secondary schools where salaries are comparatively higher.

The Council of Universities and the unions have also expressed concerns about underfunding and are planning protests in the coming months. University representatives have long advocated for an increase in the funding share to 0.65% of GDP, citing an anticipated rise in the number of applicants in the coming years due to demographic changes in the country.

The strike announcement highlights the deepening crisis in higher education funding in the Czech Republic and the growing frustration among academics and students over the government’s failure to address this critical issue.

Article by Prague Forum

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