Academic Associations are not convinced of the cutbacks in Higher Education

Academic Associations and Federations across the country have taken a joint position to demand more support for Higher Education, […]

Academic Associations and Federations across the country took a joint position to demand more support for Higher Education, namely in social support for students. Students are not convinced by the Government's retreat in funding cuts and demand clarification of the strategy for Higher Education.

In a statement signed by various academic associations and federations, including the AAUAlg, university students say they are not satisfied with the changes to the funding cuts announced last week, which were intended to respond to the demands of the deans of Public Universities.

“The initially planned cuts of 9,4 percent, although now somewhat mitigated as has been made public, and despite the apparent resignation of the deans, do not satisfy the students. In our opinion these changes have a mitigating effect, not solving the problem», reads the joint statement.

On a day of demonstrations by university students in Lisbon, most academic associations and the main federations of associations in the country do not join the protest and prefer to talk about dialogue.

Second revealed to Sul Informação the president of the Academic Association of the University of Algarve (AAUAlg) Pedro Barros, the non-adherence of the Algarve academy to the protest has to do with the fact that they consider that this «must be the last resort».

“We have had permanent meetings with the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for the past three weeks. We think there are still other ways to see our demands satisfied», he said.

Even so, the academic associations signatory to the document do not drop the request for a hearing with the Prime Minister, something they have been trying since the current Government took office, more than a year ago, guaranteeing that they have proposals to present.

At the meeting with the head of Government, university students want to understand "what is the Government's strategy for Higher Education and what measures it intends to implement."

Denouncing a "clear lack of strategy and vision for the future of this nuclear and critical sector for the country's development", they consider that, in Portugal, "education and higher education in particular are not a clear priority".

“Academic associations are very concerned about the coming year. Already today we feel the consequences of the cuts made in our HEIs. The stability and quality of national higher education are effectively compromised when, for budgetary reasons, visiting professors are dismissed, libraries and study rooms close earlier, maintenance works are not carried out, laboratory material cannot be acquired, necessary investments are abandoned or postponed”, illustrated the signatories of the document.

Academic associations emphasize, on the other hand, that they understand the country's situation, hence assuming «their role of intervening structures, in a constructive manner». “We believe that as agents of higher education we have the right and the duty to think about the higher education system as a whole, and as such, we have presented alternatives to the cuts we have been witnessing”, they referred.

«Changes to the teaching career and the reorganization of the network and structure of higher education based on the promotion of quality and a more judicious investment, with a more efficient and effective management are examples of paths that national higher education must be available to follow», exemplified.


Combating school dropouts is a priority

In addition to the concern with cuts in funding, representatives of university students from the main academies say they do not see "neither the tutelage nor the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) showing due concern with the phenomenon of school dropout".

A “parallel” concern, also conveyed in the statement, which Pedro Barros reinforced. “The secretary of state has already assured us that there will be an increase in the social support fund next year. Even so, our demands were not fully satisfied, although we admit that there have already been some improvements», he said.

One of the problems identified has to do with the “tax situation” of these students' households, which, if not regularized, makes the application for a scholarship unfeasible. A complex situation, but one that the president of AAUAlg considers that it has to contemplate exceptions, as “it is not fair that the children are harmed” by the parents' non-compliance. Here, too, "a window is open for changing the regulations for granting grants," he assured.

“Monitoring this dropout is inadequate and insufficient, as many HEIs do not have mechanisms to respond to this reality. We then underline our dissatisfaction with the lack of concern and political action of the HEIs with the government with regard to social support for students», reads, on the other hand, in the statement.