Thousands of students and workers from the five public universities of Costa Rica marched to Casa Presidencial on Tuesday to protest against restrictions on the use of those institutions’ budgets.
The demonstration, which was attended by the rectors of the universities, was convened after the Ministry of Finance ordered last week an increase in the percentage of the Special Fund for Higher Education (FEES) that goes to capital expenditures.
In practice, the measure aimed to reduce the amounts used for salary annuities, which the university authorities themselves recognize as a source of complications for financial stability.
The rectors fear that they will be forced to cut other programs, such as scholarships.
But what they consider most worrying is that the measure represents, in their opinion, a restriction on the autonomy of public higher education.
“The education of your children is not a negotiation,” read one of the flags carried by the students of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), the most important in the country, during the march.
University authorities and students met for several hours with members of the government in search of an agreement.
After the meeting, the government assured that it will respect university autonomy, while higher education institutions promised to make “a joint review of their budgets.”
The Faculty of Social Sciences of the UCR has remained occupied by students since last Thursday, as well as the rectory of the National University (UNA).
The rector of the National Technical University, Marcelo Prieto, admitted Monday to Congress that the salary annuities paid by the institutions jeopardize the financial future of the institutions.