Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over Drastic University Budget Cuts

Thousands of Argentines protest drastic 71% cut in university funding, threatening accessibility and quality of higher education in the crisis-hit country.

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Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over Drastic University Budget Cuts

Massive Protests Erupt in Argentina Over Drastic University Budget Cuts

Hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the government's decision to slash the 2024 university budget by a staggering 71% compared to the previous year. The demonstrations, which were joined by professors, parents, alumni, and supporters of the country's 57 state-run universities, have been described as one of the biggest protests yet against the austerity measures introduced by President Javier Milei.

According to a report by Mariel Fitz Patrick and Sandra Crucianelli, the drastic reduction in funding for universities comes despite an increase in operating expenses. The protesters rose up "in defense of free public university education" in the economic crisis-riddled South American country, with labor unions, opposition parties, and private universities also backing the demonstrations.

The government has dismissed the protests as "political" and has questioned how public universities spend their funds, claiming they are used for "shady business and to indoctrinate." However, university rectors have warned that the current funding levels will only allow them to function for two to three more months. The University of Buenos Aires (UBA), one of the best universities in Latin America, has received only 8.9% of its total budget from the state since last July, barely enough to keep the lights on and provide basic services.

The budget cuts have had a significant impact on research, projects, and academic activities, with many teachers struggling to make ends meet due to declining salaries. UBA has warned that without a rescue plan, the school would shut down in the coming months, stranding 380,000 students mid-degree. The government has promised a 70% increase in funding for operating expenses, but this excludes teacher salaries, which make up about 90% of a university's budget.

Why this matters: The protests in Argentina highlight the broader impact of austerity measures on public education and the potential long-term consequences for the country's future. The drastic cuts to university budgets threaten the accessibility and quality of higher education, which could have far-reaching effects on social mobility, economic growth, and innovation in Argentina.

The protests are part of a broader austerity push by Milei, who has also cut subsidies for transport, fuel, and energy, leading to a 20% loss in purchasing power for wage-earners and thousands of public sector job losses. Ana Arias, the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at UBA, stated that the budget for 2023 is "frozen," making it impossible to keep the system functioning. The academic community sees the government's "consensual proposal" to increase operating expenses by 140% in two installments as a "mockery," as it only represents about 10% of the university budget.

Key Takeaways

  • Hundreds of thousands protested 71% cut in 2024 university budget in Argentina.
  • Cuts threaten accessibility and quality of higher education, impacting social mobility and innovation.
  • University rectors warn current funding only allows 2-3 months of operation, risking mass student disruption.
  • Government dismisses protests as "political," claims universities misuse funds, but offers only 10% budget increase.
  • Austerity measures by President Milei also cut subsidies, leading to 20% loss in purchasing power.