Representatives of the country’s major public universities say they are shocked at the size of funding cuts for higher education in the new national budget. Meeting Tuesday on the campus of the University of Milagro, rectors and vice-rectors said that the cuts could have a devastating impact and affect the ability of universities to fulfill their constitutional mission.
The 2017-2018 federal budget slashes public university funding by more than 15% from 2016 levels, from $1.42 billion to $1.19 billion.
Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, assistant rector of the University of Miraflores Javier Paguay held a press briefing to say that universities are facing a crisis.
“We understand that the nation is in extreme financial difficulties and know that we must share the burden,” he said. “Our concern is over the severity of the cuts. The measures we will be forced to take to meet this austerity will affect all aspects of our educational mission, including research, recruitment, teacher training teachers, and classroom instruction. This could be devastating.”
Paguay said university leaders are unanimous in their concerns and plan to meet with Ecuador Secretary of Higher Education Augusto Barrera as early as late this week to argue for changes to the budget. “Since he is open to dialog with all elements of society, we also plan to meet with President Moreno,” Paguay said.
Paguay said that the rectors planned to issue a joint statement on Wednesday or Thursday.
University students are also angry about the cuts. University of Cuenca students say they plan a march on Thursday protesting a funding reduction of $8 million at the university.
The Federation of University Students of Ecuador (FEUE) says it plans protests throughout the country in reaction to the new budget. “We feel that universities are unfairly bearing the brunt of the damage caused by waste and corruption in the previous government,” says FEUE president Andrés Quishpe. “We don’t blame President Moreno but ask that he consider the importance of higher education in restoring the country to decency and prosperity.”