Solidarity statement on the political interference in the call for enrollment into higher education programmes in Slovenia
On January 28th 2021, the Parliament of Slovenia overruled a new public Call for Enrollment into higher education programmes (further in the text: the Call) for the academic year 2020/2021 despite it being previously agreed upon by the Ministry of Education. As a justification of this decision the Prime Minister commented that the number of students enrolled into specific study programmes didn’t fit the requirements of the labour market in current conditions. Furthermore, the Government coalition held off the employment of young researchers on any new projects despite having a previously guaranteed funding without providing any reason (ibid.)
This decision of the Government to hold off the adoption of the Call has consequently prevented a number of high school students from being able to enrol on the desired study programme as well as postponed the organisation of information days and fairs organised for students to gather information on offered programmes. (ibid.) In the view of ŠOS this presented a very dangerous intervention that could, without a rapid solution, greatly harm the new generations of students. In line with this view, ŠOS has stepped into contact with the representatives from the national syndicates and universities to try and resolve the issue. In accordance with ESU’s Statement on Commodification in Higher Education ŠOS firmly believes that any changes in public higher education should not come at the expense of students, and further concurs with the statement of the rector of our biggest university that the government hijacked the future of the next generation of students by conducting such an irresponsible intervention. ² Furthermore, in accordance with the Rules on the Call for Enrolment and Enrolment in higher education³, the Government is not responsible for changing and adopting the Call for Enrollment; it is merely a consulting organ which provides an opinion on the Call, which is later adopted by the senates of the universities. The actions of the government of Slovenia are therefore illegal (ibid).
On February 6th, the Government has decided to adopt the Call with changes in the numbers of offered spots at public universities with noticeable increase in the quota at the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty for Computer Science, while some other programmes had to reduce their numbers. The funding of public programmes is yet to be discussed in the future.⁴
ESU considers, as well as ŠOS, that any political interference of the Government into the Call previously coordinated between the representatives of the Ministry of Education, public universities, as well as syndicates (already taking into account the demand for certain professions), is unacceptable, as it interferes with the autonomy of the higher education institutions and the protection of academic freedom.
The European Students’ Union, together with students` representatives of ŠOS:
- Calls for a cessation of governmental interventions into the process of formulating the Call for Enrollment into higher education by the Government of Slovenia.
- Reiterates the importance of an independent, transparent and democratic education system without the interference of political interests.
- Reaffirms the importance of accessibility to free public higher education for all students at the desired programmes, as agreed by the relevant stakeholders in the education sector.
As stated in ESU`s Policy Paper on Public Responsibility, Financing and Governance of Higher Education: “It is crucial to recognise that rigid control of higher education institutions by the state goes against the principles of democratisation and may reduce transparency, effective management and the overall performance of HEIs. It can furthermore significantly deter institutions from upholding their core public responsibilities.⁵” Therefore, we strongly encourage the trust-based dialogue between the Government and non-state HEI stakeholders in order to safeguard the institutional autonomy of higher education and research institutions, protect academic freedom, and to ensure the sustainability of EHEA`s core values.
As a member of ESU, ŠOS wants to uphold the above mentioned higher education values, assure accessibility and full inclusivity of higher education for all students, researchers and academic community members, based on the academic and societal needs (assessed by the academic experts), instead of the needs of the labour market. This will ensure the freedom of higher education in Slovenia from commodification by the labour market and therefore it shall contribute to the preservation of academic freedom.