On 1 December, Latvian Higher Education Staff and Student Unions held a demonstration against budget cuts in the higher education and research sector. EI offers its full solidarity to the Latvian academic community, and has, together with ETUCE, made clear its support for the demands being made.
Latvia has faced dramatic consequences due to the financial and economic crisis. In particular, the education budget has been reduced drastically by about 50 percent for general, vocational and higher education throughout 2009, and about 60 percent for the research sector.
Although the economic climate in Latvia is very severe, EI supports the plea of the higher education staff union (LIZDA) and the Latvian Student Association (LSA) for more investment in education and research as being of particular importance for sustainable development. Moreover, EI stresses that investments in early childhood education, general education, vocational education and training, and higher education and research are essential for economic recovery and for the future of the next generation.
EI considers LIZDA’s demands in the higher education and research sector to be the minimum for retaining academic and research personnel and maintaining the quality of higher education and research during the recession.
At the EI Pan-European Conference/ETUCE General Assembly, members agreed to support LIZDA’s and LSA’s demands for no further budget decrease for higher education (Universities and Colleges); to retain the budget for basic funding of research on the level of 2009; to guarantee necessary co-funding/pre-funding of ESF projects in higher education and research.
In a country such as Latvia that has been so hard-hit by the crisis, education remains a key avenue of hope for post-crisis regeneration, but is being completely threatened by current budgetary measures. EI emphasizes that the current economic downturn in the country is being further damaged by conditionalities which are imposed via the combined country loan facility that Latvia has secured from the IMF and the European Union. Such conditionalities, particularly those requiring a reduction of public deficit and curbing inflation, result in reduced public spending with a direct impact on public sector wages, and thus on the provision of public education.
EI hopes for a quick turn-around in the situation in Latvia and a realization by the government that current budget cuts to education and research are fundamentally harmful to the future social and economic stability of the country.
EI is calling on other member organisations to also voice their support for their Latvian colleagues.