Argentine universities plead for funding as crunch sees staff paid in installments

University authorities met with the government to discuss money, but were not granted extra funding, despite the massive march for public education

Economically, Argentina’s public universities are still in critical condition. After last week’s massive march to defend public education and a 70% budget increase for the remainder of the year, they met with the government on Tuesday to request new funds, but left empty-handed.

“This is an improvement, but it is insufficient to solve our current problems,” said the National Interuniversity Council (CIN, by its Spanish initials) in a release published Tuesday afternoon referring to the budget increase.

Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello and Education Secretary Carlos Torrendell met with the CIN and other university authorities, including University of Buenos Aires (UBA) rector Ricardo Gelpi, who also met Pettovello on Monday. During the meeting, they addressed the march. Pettovello and Torrendell promised they would not close or defund universities.

“We have accentuated the need to recover 50% of what we have lost in university funding,” the CIN said. “We have moved forward in terms of dialogue, but are still calling for short-term solutions.”

Universities received the 70% immediately after the Human Capital Ministry announced its payment the night before the April 23 march. The ministry also promised another 70% annual budget increase in May, which universities will receive in early June. These represent a total increase of 105% compared to the budget they had at the start of 2024, the CIN said.

While the budget is annual, the money is released monthly. This is why the increase covers the March-December period. The next increase will cover May-December. 

Operating costs represent 7-15% of UBA’s budget. 

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Public universities, like the rest of the public sector, are operating with the 2023 budget because Congress did not approve a new national budget for 2024. In 2023, they periodically received additional funds from the government to compensate for inflation. However, those extra funds are not included in the budget that was renewed for this year. Last week’s payments are the only extra funds universities have received since President Javier Milei took office in December.

Inflation reached 211% in 2023 and was running at 51.6% in 2024 through to the end of March. 

The situation has forced universities to cut spending significantly. Some UBA faculties have gone so far as to cut electricity use to a bare minimum. UBA cannot afford research grants or building renovation works, and the circumstances have even left the university unable to pay cleaning and security staff in a single installment.

The 70% increase, which is only for operating costs like utility bills, new computers and desks, “is not enough” for everything they need to stay operational, a source at UBA said. Meanwhile, they have to pay teachers’ salaries. 

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