About fifty trade union members from ACOD, ACLVB and ACV gathered on Monday afternoon at Surlet de Chokierplein in Brussels, near the Flemish Parliament. The trade union front complains about the limited operating resources with which Flemish higher education has to work. “The fat is from the soup,” say the activists. “There must be sufficient financial resources again to be able to offer the education that our students deserve,” says Nancy Libert of ACOD Education.
According to the activists, successive Flemish governments are not fulfilling their promises to higher education, which has consequences for the quality of university education. “Since 2008, every Minister of Education has ignored the financing decree,” says Libert.
The trade union front points out that the relationship between the increasing number of students and the operating resources of the Flemish universities is simply not in balance. In addition, there is the non-indexation of operating resources, which the Flemish rectors have also emphasized. According to the trade union sector federations, Flemish higher education loses out on 667 million euros annually.
With all the dramatic consequences that entails, says Libert. “More and more work is being done, with fewer and fewer colleagues. Some were fired, others were not replaced. Those who were left are now succumbing.”
“Too few operating resources”
Professor of socio-economic history Maïka De Keyzer (KULeuven) agrees. “At the moment, there are simply too few operating resources to provide quality teaching or conduct research,” the professor explains. “The quality of education is declining because the workload is much too high.”
However, according to De Keyzer, the system as it is now would be perfectly workable. Normally, operating resources per registered student in higher education increase. “But that system has consistently not been implemented for years,” says De Keyzer. “If the minister is really concerned about the declining quality of education, he should start fulfilling the agreements.”
Lisa Boyon, a student at the Vrije Universiteit of Brussels (VUB), says the underfunding also has an impact on students’ lives. “As students we notice that the quality of education is declining. At the same time, life is becoming increasingly expensive for students. Registration fees are rising, rooms are becoming more expensive, restaurant prices at universities are skyrocketing,” says Boyon. “Something must be done urgently, because this does not make the university more democratic.”
The action took place approximately at the same time as the September statement by Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) in the Flemish Parliament. During that policy statement, Jambon announced that 3,300 additional student rooms will be built throughout Flanders and an additional 105 million euros will be allocated for higher education and to tackle the teacher shortage.
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