Economic crisis crippling progress at Venezuelan universities

University leaders introduce three-day timetables as teachers struggle to pay bus fares to get to class

April 25, 2018
Venezuela
Source: getty

University lecturers in Venezuela are being encouraged to seek secondary sources of income as leaders warn the nation’s ongoing economic crisis is destabilising the higher education system.

Venezuela has traditionally scored very highly in Latin American university rankings, but a deepening political crisis afflicting the nation’s economy has furthered concerns of a brain drain as increasing numbers of students drop out and teachers flee the country.

Last month, the Universidad del Zulia in Maracaibo cut course timetables down to three days a week in an attempt to save costs, with study materials sent to students online to make up the rest of the time, according to an AFP report.

The Central University of Venezuela, the country’s oldest and top-ranking institution, also plans to introduce a three-day week, according to its leader, Amalio Belmonte.

The rector said that the university had received only a third of its expected budget for this academic year, “most of [which] goes on wages”.

Judith Aular, Zulia university rector, told the news agency: “We allow teachers to look for another source of income. With what they earn, they can’t support their families.”

The country’s most experienced, full-time professors earn 3.9 million Venezuelan bolivars a month – equivalent to $10 on the black market – which with the current rate of inflation is only enough to buy five kilos of meat. Academics say that they are unable to pay bus fares or repair or refuel their cars to get to class.

The crisis was been sparked by a fall in oil prices in the region in 2016. Since then, 25 per cent of teaching staff and 40 per cent of students at Oriente University in Cumana have left the country, according to the university’s director Milena Bravo.

Violence on campus is also reported to be rising, university leaders warned, with electricity shortages leaving many areas in darkness at night.

The International Monetary fund has called Venezuela’s economic collapse “one of the worst in modern history”.

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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