BRUSSELS – Financial support per student in Belgium has been steadily decreasing in the past years, adequate infrastructure is lacking, studies are inflexible and more investments are needed in the education system in order to aid success.
Those were the major worries that students voiced out in massive protests that took place in the biggest cities in Belgium on Thursday 28 March supported by the Flemish and French speaking national unions of students and the European Students’ Union (ESU). Students wanted to claim quality education for all and for proper funds for education. Rallies, demonstrations and other actions illustrated the dearth of resources for higher education.
Refinancing of higher education needed
“The current situation regarding the funding of higher education is unacceptable. This causes many practical problems such as lack of infrastructure, services, frameworks and related issues. The continued reduction of financial resources injected into education affects the quality of it and questions its democratisation,” says David Méndez Yépez, President of the French speaking union in Belgium FEF.
Jean-Claude Marcourt, the Minister for Education in the French speaking community of Wallonia and Brussels, has put forward a widely debated proposal to reform the higher education system, which does not respond to the key issues of the crisis according to French speaking students in Belgium. FEF had required that refinancing of public education responds to the needs of the society, that infrastructure will be improved and everyone will be offered quality service and that the aid will facilitate success and ambition.
Quality assurance cut in Flanders
In Flanders, the government has asked institutions to cut twenty per cent of the budget used for quality assurance, a core element in higher education. There are also an alarming sign of a shortage of staff in several faculties and departments, since the ratio between teachers and students has been steadily declining in the past years.
“This makes it really hard to provide a decent student centred learning approach that is so valuable in modern education. In general we see that there is more being asked of the institutions, which is a good thing. However, the state has not provided the extra funds that are needed in order to organise everything. We want to see Flanders spend two per cent of its GDP on higher education like was promised in the coalition agreement in 2009,” says Stijn De Decker, international officer of the Flemish union of students VVS.
Elections in 2014
Parliamentary elections will take place in Belgium in 2014. FEF and VVS will ensure that that the national authorities will hear the voices of students in the run up to the elections. They will undertake in cooperation with other students around Europe other actions in the coming months in order to defend student rights and to bring student affairs to the front of the election debate.
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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.