National University Council calls UBA budget raise ‘unacceptable and taunting’

The government denied it was ‘discriminating universities’ and said that more budget increases were coming

Additional reporting by Facundo Iglesia

The government gave the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) a 270% budget increase for operational costs on Wednesday. The UBA also received an additional 300% budget raise for its university hospitals.

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. 

The raise, however, is destined only for the UBA, with over 60 public universities still in critical economic condition.

The National Inter-University Council (CIN, by its Spanish acronym) said Wednesday that the budget update “means the government recognized part of the problems,” but firmly rejected the fact that only one university received it.

“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,” a CIN release said. “We will not accept first-class and second-class students.”

The council 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. They also called  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.

If no urgent response is given, CIN said that universities will decide new measures to “defend Argentine public universities.”

“We reject any methodology that promotes a divide between universities,” the release added. “We will not legitimize any attempt at dividing us or prioritize any shortcut. The CIN does not give up its beliefs. It’s not just a matter of resources; it’s a matter of principles.”

University of Comahue rector Beatriz Gentile told the Herald that, so far, her university has not received any raise proposals. “The government has decided to sort out the education of 300,000 students [from UBA] and leave behind the remaining 1.7 million,” she said, adding that this is a “hurtful surprise.”

Presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni denied that the government was “discriminating against universities” at a press conference on Thursday morning. “We are giving the final touches to a new budget update with each university because they all have different needs we need to attend to,” he said, adding that new fund increase agreements are to be announced soon.

The UBA’s situation

UBA vice rector and former Unión Cívica Radical deputy Emiliano Yacobitti announced the news on Wednesday afternoon. In a post on X, he said that the government had updated the UBA’s budget thanks to the “strong support” shown for public universities.  

He added that “it’s important that this update is extended to the entire system, and not just UBA.”

UBA’s Superior Council suspended the budget emergency it had declared on April 10 after the decision to update the budget. In April, rector Ricardo Gelpi had said the university could only afford to stay open for another three months.

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A critical situation

Public universities, like the rest of the public sector, started off the year with the same budget they had in 2023, given 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.

Hours before the massive march to defend public education on April 23, all public universities received a 70% budget increase for operating costs for the remainder of the year. They are set to receive another 70% annual budget increase in early June.

Universities are struggling to maintain the necessary conditions for students to have classes normally. University of La Matanza, for instance, has had to cut cleaning services and is sustaining itself with funds generated by agreements it has with the private and public sector. “Expenditure exceeds our budget,” a source from the university told the Herald.

Professors and university employees have received a 39% salary increase since December, compared to the 65% inflation rate that ran between December and April. On Wednesday, the National Universities Union Front announced a national strike for May 23, calling for “decent salaries,” as well as budget and scholarship updates.

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