Cuts in social support force Portuguese students to leave education

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University of Coimbra, Portugal

LISBON - Thousands of students in Portugal are forced to drop out of the education system because of economic reasons. Since September 2011, more than 5000 students have left higher education in Portugal, a number that shows clearly that injustice is rising in one of the countries with low higher education rates in Europe.

Allan Päll, Chairperson of the European Students' Union, said: "We strongly disagree with the political measures related to higher education and cuts in social support to students in Portugal. This especially endangers those that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Investment into higher education should be seen as a way out of the crisis in the longer term."

Student Support Services are facing unacceptable budget cuts in the Portuguese Higher education system since 2009. This year the tremendous reduction imposed by the austerity measures for all social support systems in Portugal is pressuring even more students to drop-out. In Portugal, tuition fees are one the highest of all Europe and family contribution for the higher education system is already the highest in Europe in terms of percentage of the total expenditure in higher education.

According to ESU, investing in education is the best way to ensure a sustainable development in the future. Päll continued: "To have a well based economic growth, Portugal needs to increase the effort on education including in the social support systems." Social support services play a key role in assuring that every single student has the same opportunity to get into and attend to higher education. This helps to avoid wasting talent that is needed for economic growth. The services that they provide are essential for students to be able to face the related expenses of higher education, such as, food, residence, medical care, and laundry, as well as, culture and sport initiatives.

High unemployment rate

Portugal's unemployment rate is now 13,6 percent, according to numbers from Eurostat, making the rate one of the highest in the Eurozone and also the fastest growing one. Unemployment among young jobseekers is even higher: around 22 percent of the Portuguese youngsters are unable to find a job.

Päll concluded: "We recognise that Portugal is under an economic crisis and forced to reduce its deficit. But this is also an opportunity to get back to the fundamentals of the economic development and to look forward to the long-term. As a European country, Portugal needs to focus on education and innovation as the key factors to have a sustainable development in the future."

 

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For more information, please contact:

Ana Abreu, President of national union of students in Portugal (FAIRe) +351 234 196 006 or geral.faire@gmail.com

Allan Päll, ESU Chairperson: +32 479591499 or allan@esu-online.org