Public higher education is shutting down today in Spain, as teachers, support staff and students close ranks against the latest government’s reforms, arguing that they open the path to privatisation and hamper access for all.
The leading education sector unions in Spain (CCOO, CSI-F, UGT, ANPE, CGT and STEs-i), along with several student unions, have called for a strike today in higher and upper secondary education against a reform that the conservative government is pushing through via a special legal procedure, which does not include consultation with the stakeholders or with the opposition parties.
This procedure has been heavily criticised by Francisco García Suárez, General Secretary of the education federation of CCOO, for being anti-democratic. “They are trying to enforce structural changes on higher education through the backdoor, without public debate, without parliamentary scrutiny, without democratic control. This looks more like a Banana Republic than a democracy”, he stressed. The unions want the strike to force the government to roll back the cuts in education spending, the restructuring of the scholarship system, the reduction in the replacement of teachers and other measures that aim at restricting the education budget.
The organisers of the strike see all these measures as part of a privatisation scheme from the side of the government that will increase the price of higher education, and thus hamper the access to the labour market for those who cannot afford to pay for an expensive master’s degree after their undergraduate studies. They also foresee a decrease in the quality of higher education as a whole, since private universities, whose number will increase because of this more flexible law, do not have to comply with the quality standards set for public universities.
The strike has received the support of diverse social organisations, including the movement for public education (Marea verde), the Culture Forum, the Platform for the defence of Culture, the Social Summit and the Spanish Youth Council.