Czech Universities Protest for Better Funding

Stanislava Benešová

In response to insufficient funding and inadequate salaries, universities across the Czech Republic are planning an hourly strike on Tuesday afternoon. Some faculties will be participating in the strike for the entire day. The decision to strike, which was once unthinkable, has gained momentum as thousands of academics join in, with voices even suggesting an indefinite strike during the exam period. The severity of the situation is evident.

Academics highlight that low salaries have led many scientists and teachers to leave the country, seek employment in the private sector, or transition to secondary education. On average, primary and secondary school teachers received around 48,000 monthly CZK. The demands are precise: academics call for a dignified income and financial security for themselves and their families. Grants and international projects should serve as additional sources of income. The situation is unprecedented, as employees in the public sector should not have to seek financial means to cover their salaries.

The strike will commence at 2:00 PM, with the main protest in front of the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University in Prague. The faculty, who will lead the strike throughout the day, has planned morning discussions between students and teachers. After 3:00 PM, a protest march is set to move towards the Ministry of Education.

Four faculties, including the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University, colleagues from Palacký University, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Charles University, and the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University, have announced a full-day strike.

The strike is supported by the Czech University Teachers’ Union, along with 13 other labor organizations. It has garnered the endorsement of academic senates from various universities, including Charles University, University of Hradec Králové, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, as well as the senates of 17 faculties.

During the strike, the Council of Higher Education has called for discussions with students and the wider public. According to their analysis, salaries in scientific, medical, economic, chemical-technological, pedagogical, and legal faculties are becoming non-competitive in the job market. Numerous representatives of universities, including the Czech Rectors’ Conference, are dissatisfied with the education budget. According to the proposed budget by the Ministry of Education for the following year, the budget for universities will remain at the same level as this year, amounting to 30.9 billion CZK. Over the years, a debt of 10 billion CZK has accumulated towards universities. The ministry has promised additional subsidies of 800 million CZK from the new year to help universities address the enormous wage discrepancies among their employees.

This strike serves as a wake-up call for the government and society to prioritize the education sector and ensure fair treatment and adequate funding for Czech universities. The dedication and commitment of the academic community must be acknowledged and valued, as they play a vital role in shaping the country’s future.