Edition 206 - June 2018

Law 2.0 enrages Polish students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early June, protests sparked in the Polish academic community against the Law 2.0. This is the name given to the new higher education and science bill, also called “Constitution for Science”, presented last January by the Polish Minister of Education Jarosław Gowin. Polish students did not take this bill well, at least, not in its entirety. Therefore, they joined forces and put together what is considered to be the biggest students’ protest in Poland since 1968. 

Strikes began on 6 June at the University of Warsaw, with 20 members of the Akademicki Komitet Protestacyjny (Academic Protesting Committee) occupying the chancellor’s building. Soon, the protest virus sparked in other cities, such as Kraków, Gdańsk, Białystok, Łódź, Katowice, Opole and Poznań. What raises major concerns in the academic community is the proposed introduction of external “councils”, composed by independent experts, to be tasked with supervising universities. Students fear increased political control of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education over academia, eventually leading to taking control of the study programmes. Moreover, according to the reform, smaller regional universities will have their budget to confer PhD degrees reduced, effectively becoming teaching-only facilities, with risks of marginalisation and increased elitism. On the other hand, the budget would be centralised only in some selected areas, which protesters see as a way to give some universities a false “European” glamour.

The bill was initially intended to enter into law by October 2018, but so far, the legislative activity has been very slow because of the many amendments that the law has gone through. The third reading will take place in July and Gowin has promised to introduce 50 new amendments, which protesters claim will not fix the problem, but only introduce minor adjustments, just like it has been the case so far. According to them, key amendments are constantly torpedoed by the deputies of the ruling party, PiS, obstructing the possibility to reach a majority for their approval. 

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