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Czech Republic: unpopular higher education reform off the table

Following his appointment as the Minister of Education last month (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, May 2012), Dr. Fiala made his first major move by scrapping the highly unpopular higher education reform put forth under his predecessor. The draft law, which drew widespread criticism and mass protests from student and academics, as well as the Rector’s Conference, was one of the major factors behind Dr. Fiala’s predecessor’s fall. The fresh minister announced that instead of preparing a new higher education bill, the ministry will enter into further consultations with representatives of the university sector and propose amendments to existing legislature.

Next up is another controversial part of the higher education reform package – the student financial aid bill. Under the previous minister, the government fidgeted around with the notion of introducing tuition fees which drew ire from the ranks of students. The original idea was to introduce – simultaneously with the fees - a student loan system with favourable repayment conditions similar to the ones already employed in many EU countries. However, the new minister clearly stated that the introduction of fees is not on his agenda and that student loans covering living expenses should be made available independently of tuition fees. Nevertheless, the ministry is considering introducing a low ‘registration’ fee.

Although this approach provides a welcomed change from the more confrontational style and rigid stance of his predecessor, it remains to be seen how much change can Dr. Fiala achieve in the difficult fiscal climate that still hovers as a dark cloud over the whole sector. For now, the majority of higher education funding remains intact - something that was to be expected from the former president of the Czech Rectors Conference. But will other areas of education be just as lucky?

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (in Czech) Tyden (in Czech)