Portuguese close ranks

November 10, 1995

Rectors in Portugal are to meet with university lecturers' unions to try to hammer out a common position on higher education to present to the incoming Socialist government.

The prospect of wide-ranging reforms of higher education came closer last week with an announcement by education minister Marcal Grilo two days after taking office that tuition fees would return to 1973 levels of Esc1,200 (Pounds 4).

He also said the ministry was ready to take a serious look at university financing and to extend the grant system to cover students from private and cooperative universities, which represent more than half the system.

CRUP, the Portuguese rectors' council, has promised to examine the list of demands from the so-called Common Platform of lecturers, researchers and student organisations that is trying to whip up support for a national higher education conference in Lisbon in December.

The platform thinks that, following 16 years of centre-right Social Democratic rule with a succession of education ministers, much public controversy but also rapid change, the time is ripe for those in higher education to make their voices heard in a more peaceful fashion.

The rectors have agreed to keep a promise to start talking to unions that they made at the height of the most recent unrest in July, when lecturers and researchers struck and refused to invigilate both university entry and end-of-term exams in a protest over university career paths and salaries.

A rectors' working group is to look at revising the university statute on careers. But rectors are less receptive to the idea of union representation on management boards, committees and university senates.

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