Students protest against new version of Higher Education Law
Students and lecturers have held demonstrations in 20 cities against the Ministry of Education’s revised Law on Higher Education. They consider that their demands have not been taken into account.
Students joined demonstrations in all regions of Ukraine from Lutsk to Donetsk and Simferopol. They have one main aim – to stop the adoption of the Law on Higher Education in the version prepared in the Ministry of Education. They want to make it impossible to raise the payment for studies after a contract has been signed; the introduction of a three-tier system for entry into institutes; as well as more autonomy both for the institutes and for each individual student.
According to one of the organizers of the protest, Ivan Shmatko from the union Direct Action, “We are holding this protest to show that after the last protest when they threw out this draft law and created a commission on drawing up a new one, where there was a representative from the protesting students, our comments have not been accepted”. He was one of the demonstrators at a Kyiv demonstration outside first the President’s Administration then the Cabinet of Ministers where the students’ demands for put to the Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk.
In the Ministry, they say that they see no grounds for the protests and assert that the demands have been met. Shmatko confirms that the contentious articles have indeed been rewritten, however they have made them confused giving scope for each rector to interpret them as they wish.
Lecturers are worried by the cancellation of the restriction on hour load for the academic year. In the current law, maximum teaching load is 900 hours a year, according to Inna Sovsun who lectures in Political Science at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy. She points out that in the West this norm is around 200-300 hours. “In the present draft law even the current extremely high norm has been removed. It’s written that the maximum load will be determined by the Cabinet of Ministers , and that means that when the Cabinet of Ministers doesn’t have money, they can economize and force lecturers for the same money to teach not three or four courses a semester, but five or six”.
There were supporters of the draft law – several dozen students standing with their back to the President’s Office on the other side of the police cordon. However the majority could not give any specific explanation for why they were there, claiming only that they totally support the course of educational reform offered by the government.