Universidad en Argentina e inflación
Marzo 3, 2024

Argentine universities in ‘critical situation’ as inflation soars

Rectors call for budget increases and wage rises for staff or institutions will soon be unable to function

Argentina’s public universities have warned that they face a “critical situation” and will soon not be able to function without an increase to their budgets, as annual inflation reached a 30-year-high of 250 per cent.

The new right-wing government of Javier Milei has frozen university budgets at 2023 levels despite the astronomical rise in costs, forcing the rectors of all the country’s public universities to issue a statement via the Consejo Interuniversitario Nacional (CIN), or National Interuniversity Council.

The statement said there was a “delicate situation” in the country currently and universities had “responsibly shared our concerns, have advocated before the competent authorities the necessary actions, and, as a result of the collective effort of our communities, have ensured, under very difficult conditions, the continuity of activities in compliance with our mission”.

“However, it is time to warn, with the gravity that the situation imposes, that without corrective actions, the full functioning of public university institutions will be seriously affected,” the statement added.

The rectors called for monthly operating expenses to be increased to take account of the current rate of inflation “to guarantee the continuity of our activities”, and the salaries of both teaching and non-teaching staff to be raised.

Budgets for investing in infrastructure, equipment and scholarships must be continued, the statement added, as well as funding for science and technology research.

Mr Milei – who won the election after yielding a chainsaw at rallies and promising to slash public spending – has instigated a form of economic shock therapy in the country, which he has said is needed after years of economic mismanagement.

Universities were affected when a general strike was held in the country recently in opposition to the controversial government’s policies.

Meanwhile one of Mr Milei’s first attempts at reforming the higher education system – introducing tuition fees for international students – has stalled after the wide-ranging “Omnibus” law that the measure was included in failed to get through congress.

It is thought Mr Milei could try to bring back elements of the bill and he has also promised to cut research funding and privatise the National Scientific and Technical Research Council.

His actions have brought condemnation from leaders in other parts of South America. Rodrigo Arim, rector of the Universidad de la República in neighbouring Uruguay, has issued a statement in support of the Argentine rectors and pledged “deepening regional integration” in response to the “adversity” they faced.

The CIN statement mounted a passionate defence of higher education and its role in Argentina since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1983.

“In these 40 years of democracy, public universities have been a clear example of institutionalism, outstanding professional excellence, the production of knowledge committed to major national issues, democratic construction, and respect for human rights,” the statement said.

Universities support all sectors with research and knowledge, meaning that they are part of the daily life of the 47 million Argentinians, it said.

“Maintaining the strategic value [of] public university education, especially for a country experiencing so many structural problems, is the responsibility of everyone,” it added.

“Everything we go through is solved with more and better education…with more and better investment in university education and national science.”

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