SOFIA – Thousands of students take to the streets in Bulgaria to protest worsening living conditions, as many universities plan to increase their tuition fees by 8 to 33 per cent. Students’ demands to be fully recognised as partners have also been ignored, as students´ representation within governing bodies of higher education institutions is still limited. Decisions to introduce higher tuition fees were taken behind the students’ back.
The European Students’ Union (ESU) is disappointed by these intentions of decision-makers in higher education in Bulgaria and calls for an immediate suspension of such plans. “The economic crisis cannot be used as an excuse to raise tuition fees or cut budgets for education. On the contrary, education can be a solution to crisis situations, as we need equal distribution of skills, knowledge and competences in order to stimulate social and economic development. Bulgaria might fall behind on the EU2020 targets, which together with a high unemployment rate and excessive youth migration, draws a grim picture for the country in the next few decades. Students seem to be the ones pointing out those things that seem to be obvious. Listen to them, while it is not too late,” says Karina Ufert, ESU’s Chairperson.
Students join a social movement
Ten thousand students joined national demonstrations in Bulgaria on Sunday 24 February. Yesterday, there were also protests organised in the country’s biggest cities, such as Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Bourgas. The demonstrations will continue in the next weeks as well.
Dissatisfaction with the Bulgarian government and general living conditions rose in the beginning of February, especially because of soaring energy prices. This was the start of a wide-ranging social movement that demanded an overall change in Bulgaria’s political system that led eventually to the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on 20 February.
Students are engines for a positive change
Students in Bulgaria have joined this social movement in their demand for increased participation in governing bodies of higher education in Bulgaria and their opposition to any plans to raise tuition fees. They request that they will be represented by 30 per cent in governing bodies instead of 15 per cent as current legislations entails. Students also want broader youth participation and civil control in the country’s legislative and executive powers in general.
A statement issued by the National Assembly of Student Councils (NASC) and supported by the Union of Bulgarian Students (UBS), the two national unions of students in Bulgaria, encourages students to be an engine for positive change. “Today we stand up with a clear position and ideas, which we are ready to defend no matter what,” the statement reads.
Please download the full version of the declaration from NASC here.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.