Government announces 270% budget increase for public universities

Universities say they still haven’t been officially informed about it

The government announced a 270% budget increase for national public universities aimed at covering operational costs. The increase would be equal to the one given last week to the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and would be formalized on Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni said Tuesday morning that the government met with the National Inter-University Council (CIN, by its Spanish initials) on Monday and agreed on the raise.

The CIN, however, said they did not have any meetings with the government, only informal talks where authorities communicated their intention of carrying out the raise. Public universities consulted by the Herald said they still haven’t received any official communication on this.

“The CIN is taking this with caution,” a source from the organization told the Herald. They are expecting the government to call for a meeting next week in which both parties should sign a formal resolution establishing the raise. “Without that, [universities] won’t be paid. The 270% will only be taken as something certain once that happens.”

Last Wednesday, the government gave the UBA a 270% budget increase for operational costs and an additional 300% budget raise for its university hospitals. The decision sparked strong rejections from the remaining 60 public universities.

“It is unacceptable and taunting that only one university is granted [the increase] and not the other 60 universities all over the country, which have two million students,” said a CIN release published after the UBA announcement.

At the time, the council had demanded that all public universities receive the same budget raise, given that “the government confirmed with its actions that it has resources” to do so.

Despite the announcement, institutions are still calling for professors and university employees’ salary raises, as well as scholarship updates and relaunching the construction of buildings that were halted due to a lack of funds.

The decision comes after months of protests and negotiations, which ended in a massive nation-wide march in April where public universities called for more resources to stay afloat. 

Public universities, like the rest of the public sector, started off the year with the same budget they had in 2023, given that Congress did not approve a new national budget for 2024. Hours before the April 23 march to defend public education, all public universities received a 70% budget increase for operating costs for the remainder of the year. Back then, the government had announced an additional 70% increase to be paid in early June, but didn’t issue any official resolution confirming it.

Since December, professors and university employees have received a salary increase of 39%, while inflation rose to 65% in the first four months of 2024. The National Universities Union Front will carry out a national strike on Thursday, calling for “decent salaries,” as well as budget and scholarship updates.

“The government’s announcement regarding  an operational budget increase for universities gives way to a new era,” said University of Córdoba rector Jhon Boretto. “We are looking forward to it swiftly being paid […] and for professors and employees’ demands to be met.”

Public universities had to take drastic measures to rationalize their resources, with some cutting down in cleaning and security services and even turning lights off in common areas to save electricity, as well as putting a halt on construction work. 

The University of La Matanza (UNLaM), for instance, claims that it has stopped receiving funds to build a healthcare center since the beginning of the Milei administration. The building is in its final stages and is aimed at providing services to the local community, as well as internships for students. The university “has destined over AR$676 million from its own funds so that the construction can keep going,” said a source from the institution. 

The government decided to give an additional 9% salary increase for the university sector this month, despite unions protesting that it was insufficient. “Salaries are behind inflation by over 35%,” said the UNLaM source.

Congress debates university funding

The public education debate has spread to Congress. On Wednesday, the Lower House held a special session to discuss two bills. The first would issue a public education budget emergency and automatically increase public universities budget, while the second would  permanently establish the Teachers’ Incentive National Fund (FONID in Spanish).

FONID is a public school fund that past administrations have periodically renewed since 1998. Milei decided not to renew it in December, which stirred tensions with the provincial governments.

The two university bills were not voted on during the session because their final versions had not been approved by commissions and lacked the necessary support to be debated directly on the chamber’s floor.


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