Czechs seek cash to compete

September 19, 2003

Czech rectors want long-promised increased funds to be paid to universities before the country joins the European Union next January, as fears grow that many students will leave for better-funded universities elsewhere in Europe.

Rectors complain that successive Czech education ministers have promised more cash but failed to deliver.

Education minister Petra Buzkova announced this month that universities in the Czech Republic could next year expect a 10 per cent increase in the sector's annual budget of about 18 billion crowns (£370 million).

But university leaders are demanding five times as much to help bring Czech universities up to European standards. Ivan Wilhelm, rector of Charles University in Prague, warned that universities would not sit idly by while politicians failed to provide the funds. He said: "If either the government or parliament does not meet our demands regardless of all statements, we will have to resort to pressure actions."

On Czech Radio, Miroslav Ludwig, vice-chancellor of Pardubice University, criticised the education minister's promise of more funds as "inadequate" and said the money was enough only to pay for new enrolments.

"The longer we postpone reform, the worse," Professor Ludwig said. Czech universities have already started charging fees to some students, although measures to adopt across-the-board tuition fees remain on the drawing board.

Fees for "perpetual students" - postgraduates who keep on extending their studies - have been introduced and Masaryk University in Brno has already upped fees for such students to about 33,000 crowns a year.

Charles University plans to introduce annual fees of at least 16,000 crowns for postgraduate students to help raise money to fund more places for undergraduates in a sector where bachelor degrees are heavily oversubscribed.

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