Czech university academics begin nationwide strike against underfunding today

According to lecturers across the country, university faculties – especially those in the arts and humanities – have long been underfunded. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 17.10.2023 09:28:00 (updated on 17.10.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Professors at Czech universities will today begin a one-hour “warning strike” in a bid to address the underfunding of higher education institutions. Organized by the University Trade Union, the strike is scheduled to occur between 2 and 3 p.m., although certain faculties nationwide will be on strike for the entire day. Thousands of students will see their timetables disrupted today.

Not enough money budgeted, lecturers say

The crux of the issue lies in the 2024 education budget, which is expected to be approximately CZK 269 billion, mirroring the allocation for the current year. University representatives argue that this stagnant funding level has led to a chronic underfunding problem, a matter that necessitates immediate attention. 

Their core demands include increased government funding for higher education in the 2024 state budget to ensure decent wages and working conditions for university employees. This would also allow for development in facilities and university buildings.

Calling for reform

The Hour of Truth initiative, a group representing disenchanted academics and students – particularly in the humanities and social sciences – has also joined the protest. This group goes even further, demanding fair evaluation of salaries for university work and advocating for the completion of a doctoral studies reform, which would see students get better pay and a better quality of teaching. The disparities in salaries among different universities and faculties within the same institution are clear, the group says.

In 2022, academic staff in Czech public universities earned an average monthly salary of CZK 62,872, compared to an average economy-wide wage of CZK 40,317 for the same period, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Academic staff from art schools were found to have the lowest monthly salaries.

Data from Eurostat reveals that public expenditure on tertiary education in the Czech Republic currently accounts for just 0.86 percent of GDP, notably lower than the EU average of 1.27 percent of GDP.

In response to these disparities, the Ministry of Education has announced plans to introduce measures next year aimed at encouraging universities to narrow these gaps in remuneration for academic staff. The Ministry is set to develop a new budget methodology for educational institutions and has allocated approximately CZK 800 million to help universities implement these changes.

As the warning strike unfolds, the nation waits to see whether the government will respond to the calls for increased funding, better working conditions, and equitable salaries for university employees. Otherwise, more disruptive strikes are likely to follow. 

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