06.07.2009
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ESU at the WCHE: Public funding of higher education has never been more crucial

Education ministers must join with students, academics and education stakeholders in securing increased public financing for higher education.  This is the strong message made by ESU Chairperson, Ligia Deca, in a speech to a high-level international audience in Paris.  In a time of economic crisis, greater public investment is urgently needed as a key part of the solution and to enable higher education to fulfil its pivotal role in society, she added.

The four-day UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education started on Sunday. Speaking on a panel of key stakeholders including the World Bank, European Commission, International Association of Universities, Education International, Deca talked about the challenges for students and for higher education in the near and distant future. On the question on whether the financial crisis had changed the students’ policy approach, Deca replied a clear “no”.

‘We have always argued against a market approach that involves loans and the introduction of HE in GATS. Students are no more capable of paying tuition fees than they were before the crisis, and simply introducing more possibilities for student loans does not increase students’ ability to pay back these loans. This is an unacceptable way of solving the funding gap between the current budgets for higher education and the actual need for funds,’ says Deca.

ESU is conducting a survey for assessing the impact of the crisis on students, and is also cooperating with the European University Association and Education International on assessing the impact on the entire academic community.

Furthermore, Deca stressed that the current financial crisis does not only impact on the economies of the world.

‘This is also a values crisis, since higher education safeguards and disseminates values. There is a need for investment for higher education to continue to fulfil its role, and this is the time for higher education ministers to fight together with institutions, staff and students for more public financing of higher education,’ says Deca.

You can read the full speech made by Ligia Deca here

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