Riot police summoned in Colombia to quell funding-quota protests

May 6, 2005

A decision by the Colombian Government to introduce competitive funding for the country's 33 state universities triggered demonstrations earlier this month.

In Bogotá, more than 9,000 students marched on the Ministry of Education to deliver a petition. Riot police watched the crowd as students chanted and waved banners declaring "In defence of public universities", while onlookers cried out messages of support.

The Government intends to allocate up to 12 per cent of its higher education budget via a competitive tender from 2006. Institutions will receive funds according to quality of teaching and budget management.

Alfonso Conde, spokesman for the National Federation of University Teachers, said: "Many universities will receive less funding, and research will bear the brunt of cuts." He claimed there was "little consultation" with universities over the reforms.

There were protests in ten other cities. Clashes with police in Manizales, western Colombia, left several people injured. Students were joined by public-sector workers who claimed the Government intends to privatise universities.

Marcella Reyes, an engineering student at the District University, Bogot , said: "We're demanding a better public education for all."

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