Scandal-hit Slovakia in U-turn

October 31, 2003

The education committee of the Slovakian parliament is to reverse September's law abolishing tuition fees for external students.

The legislation gave students the right to study free and banned universities from charging tuition fees. It had been greeted with dismay by many universities that had come to rely on income from the high proportion of part-timers and distance students.

Since September, a growing scandal over demands for "gifts" from students has embroiled eight of Slovakia's 24 universities. The issue is threatening to become a major problem for the centrist coalition govern-ment that replaced the socialist administration a year ago.

The Matej Bela University Law School in Banska Bystrica is threatening to sue minister of education Martin Fronc for defamation. He allegedly accused it of demanding payments from part-time students for courses taught by university staff at arm's-length educational institutes set up by university authorities.

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