A number of major public universities in Mexico face closure within days, staff and government officials have warned, with as many as 10 institutions declaring bankruptcy as the academic year draws to an end.
According to the newspaper El Universal, emergency funding to the sum of 4 billion pesos (£160 million) is urgently needed to keep the struggling universities afloat. Federal government ministers were due to meet to discuss the situation at the beginning of the month, but it is not yet clear whether they will agree to a bailout.
The Autonomous University of Morelos, an institution of about 35,000 students situated an hour south of Mexico City, is said to be in greatest danger. But rectors from the University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo in Michoacán and the Autonomous University of Juárez in Tabasco have warned that their institutions could also face closure within “a matter of days”.
The state universities of Zacatecas, Nayarit and Sinaloa will all be bankrupt by November, Antonio Guzmán Fernández, rector of the Zacatecas Autonomous University (UAZ), told the local press.
UAZ requires 200 million pesos to pay salaries for the remainder of 2018, and a similar amount to cover its tax and social security obligations, officials said.
The news comes at a time of political strain, with outgoing the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, leaving office in December. A series of reforms to public funding made by Mr Peña Nieto were implemented with the promise of strengthening the Mexican economy, but the leader has been criticised for encouraging privatisation of universities and for underfunding the higher education system.
His successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes over leadership at the end of the year, has pledged to create 100 new public universities within his first term of office. But sector leaders have questioned where he will find the money for such an endeavour.
Responding to the financially distressed universities, Mr López Obrador said that he would help save the Autonomous University of Morelos, but only if the institution’s expenditures are reviewed. “If we are going to rescue the universities, we need accountability,” he said.