Czech funding pledge broken

October 12, 2001

The rector of central Europe's oldest university is considering resigning after repeated government promises to provide more funding for the sector were broken.

Ivan Wilhelm, rector of Charles University, Prague, said he took on faith a written pledge by Czech education minister Eduard Zeman to boost funding by £34 million and, as a result, urged fellow rectors to admit 2,000 more students this year.

But the money never came and the two dozen state universities now face a financial crisis. Mr Zeman pledged the money earlier this year to help increase student intake by 10 per cent, but last week admitted the money was not available and said he would turn to the European Investment Bank.

University chiefs said it was too late to prevent a drop in student admissions next year and have called for Mr Zeman's resignation.

Professor Wilhelm said: "It is clear that we won't see any extra money, not in the near future. If we really don't get any money, we will have to - but won't be happy to - limit the scope of the admission process. Otherwise it would mean decreasing the quality of education."

The rector said he was considering resigning as a result of the advice he gave last year and said the education minister should think about stepping down too.

For some time, university rectors have pressed the government for more cash and a better system of funding than the per capita-based system, to increase admissions and pay off debts. They said that despite a doubling of undergraduate admissions in the past ten years, higher education participation rates for 18 to 23-year-olds still lagged far behind European Union rates of 30-40 per cent.

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