MADRID – Spanish students that need public financial support in order to pay for their studies might be hit hard by reforms introduced by the country‘s government. The changes would limit access to higher education in favour of students that come from a more privileged background.
The government had planned to use the average grade 6.5 out of 10 as criteria for students to receive financial support. Those students that do not rely on receiving public financial support during their studies would therefore have to put much less effort into their education, as they would only need an average grade of 5 out of 10, whereas those applying for support would need 6.5 out of 10. However, the government has now showed willingness to lower the average grade used to 5.5 because of high political and social pressure.
“This policy is discriminatory towards students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The students that cannot pay for their studies will have to go an extra mile to succeed in their studies in comparison to their counterparts, which is against any principle of equality. The Europe 2020 strategy aims at lowering drop-out rates and increasing the number of people that complete tertiary education, but the Spanish government is heading in the opposite direction,” says Taina Moisander, Vice-Chairperson of the European Students’ Union (ESU).
Two doors to the higher education system
Additionally, the Spanish government has revealed plans that aim at raising the number of ECTS credits that students have to complete, making higher education more difficult for example for students with disabilities and those that are working alongside their studies. Moreover, students that request support may not know how much they will receive until they have finished their courses. The payments may in the end be half of what they are now because of changes to rules used to measure students‘ economic level.
“The ministry wants to set up two doors for us to enter our higher education system, one for the rich and one for the poor. It is still clear that the government intends to decrease the budget used for student grants. It is not enough to lower the criteria to 5.5 because there are so many other aspects that are wrong in this policy. The new proposal for the grant system lacks many components necessary to support students, such as for residency, materials and moving. So has a specific support for masters students or students that are working on their thesis,“ says Ines Sanchez, Secretary General of CREUP, the national union of students in Spain.
The grant system slashed
The Rectors Conference in Spain has estimated that students’ grants might decrease by 37 per cent and the grant budget by 42 per cent in comparison with the academic year 2010-2011 if the proposed reforms go through unchanged.
“If we look at the academic requirements in the proposal, more than 83 thousand students would not be able to enter our higher education system and more than 30 thousand students would lose their grants once they start their studies because they would not comply with the new criteria,“ Sanchez explains.
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