University students at a lecture, auditorium, teacher – illustrative photo.
Prague – Dissatisfied university teachers are planning to organize a protest action, during which they want to draw attention to the prevailing underfunding of social sciences and humanities at universities. They want to inform about the situation, among other things, through lectures and discussions, which will be held at universities on March 28. In particular, the faculties of philosophy (FF) should be involved. The representatives of the University Trade Union (VOS) Petr Baierl and František Kratochvíl told ČTK today.
“The problem of the fatally underfunded social science and humanities fields, i.e. a significant part of the higher education that we have opened, is still not adequately grasped by the decision-making institutions. (…) On Teachers' Day, we announce the so-called Hour of Truth. During it, the public and university students will openly informed about the complete neglect of university education and shamefully undervalued wages,” said the organizers of the protest event.
According to VOS chairman Baierl, FF and other faculties should join the protest. Support for the petition was previously expressed by the academic senates of Charles University (UK), University of Ostrava, University of Pardubice and University of Hradec Králové, among others. Directors of some departments of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic also called for a solution to the wage and financial situation in research in the humanities and social sciences.
According to Kratochvíl, the academics will deal with the concrete form of the protest in the coming days. So far, discussions and informing students and the public about what is happening in schools are planned in particular. Considering the wage situation and the underfunding of the university, which he described as bad, the head of the Department of Asian Studies at the Palacký University Faculty of Arts in Olomouc (FF UPOL) did not rule out a strike in the future.
The organizers of the protest, who also signed a petition in support of the humanities and social sciences, demand equalization of wage rates between individual fields at universities and an increase in the university budget. For example, Jakub Jirsa, a pedagogue at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Warsaw, drew attention to the large differences between the wages of people in the same positions at individual faculties of the University of Warsaw. According to him, the median salary of a professor in 2021 was, for example, CZK 34,646 at the Hussite Faculty of Theology, CZK 47,050 at the Evangelical Faculty of Theology, and CZK 47,473 at the University of Applied Sciences. Conversely, the median salary for professors working at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and the 2nd and 3rd Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University was over 90,000 CZK in the same year.
Academics have recently drawn attention to the widening differences in the funding of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools compared to the funding of universities. Remuneration of teachers in regional education has increased in recent years, on the contrary, many academics who are particularly dedicated to the humanities and social sciences at universities leave to work in the commercial sphere or at primary and secondary schools. For example, according to Jan Stejskal, chairman of the Association of Deans of Philosophical Faculties and dean of the Faculty of Arts UPOL, there is a risk that these fields will have few teachers in the future and will have to limit teaching.
A working group at the Ministry of Education (MŠMT) is now dealing with the wage policy at universities. According to the director of the higher education section at the ministry, Radka Wildová, the members of the work commission are now analyzing data on the salaries of university employees and determining whether there is a systemic error behind the differences between the earnings of employees of individual faculties. According to the chairman of the Czech Rectors' Conference (ČKR) and the rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Martin Bareš, the university representatives will also demand money for an immediate salary increase in addition to the search for a systemic solution to inequalities. The estimate could be in the amount of hundreds of millions of crowns, he said in February.
Members of the CKR and the Council of Higher Education Institutions (RVŠ) draw attention to the underfunding of higher education. According to RVŠ, a clear share of money from the budget of the Ministry of Education should be determined for the financing of universities, or the share of the university budget in GDP should be at least 0.6 percent. ČKR and VOS expressed similar opinions. The spokeswoman of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Aneta Lednová, said earlier that 30.9 billion CZK is allocated for education at public universities this year, i.e. more than last year.