Oct.15th, Belgrade: Protests against new law on education

Oct.15th, Belgrade:
Protest against new Law on Education
and Austerity Policies Intensifies

The following report was sent to the global ISM fb page:

Today, on October 15th, in Belgrade, a protest brought together several thousands of students, from all Serbian universities, accompanied by the worker union representatives, in the fight against the new law on education and austerity measures. The protest was initiated by a number of progressive student organizations, independent of the political opposition and government authorities. Student activities are coordinated through direct-democratic assemblies in colleges. Protests are accompanied by a series of blockades of university buildings that are currently under the control of self-organised students who carry out alternative education and a rich cultural program. Students' actions are constantly sabotaged by the media, the state-instrumentalised official student representatives (SKONUS) and are violently attacked by neo-nazi groups (Srbska akcijahttps, Croatian national front). But for now students successfully resist the attacks through unity and self-organization, and are increasingly supported by a number of left-wing workers' and citizens' organizations and trade unions, because their demands reflect the material interests of the majority of students and of the society as a whole, against the current neoliberal austerity measures, and the overall process of commodification of education and the imposition of discriminatory social and political measures.

Short-term requirements:

1) 6 exam periods;
2) Fifth year to be funded from the budget;
3) Stop the reduction of the budget quota for MA;
4) To let students who enrolled in 2006, to continue to study by the statute from 2006.

Long-term requirements:

1) Completely free education like the one in Germany;
2) Improvement of the quality of education and abandonment of the Bologna education system;
3) Replacement of parliamentary forms of organization in colleges by democratic forms that are inclusive and responsive to majority of students.
4) Suspension of neoliberal government austerity policy.

Some of the slogans used on the protest today were:

Knowledge is not a commodity!
Free education!
Down with the bourgeois gang of thieves!
Students and workers together are strongest!
How much money for a diploma!?
Fascists didn't pass, SKONUS didn't pass, the law will not pass!
Students from all faculties unite!
Everyone to the assemblies, everyone to the protests, everyone to the blockades!
Students, not clients!
Where is no budget, there is trouble!

To explain the short-term demands:

This fall, without much media attention, the Serbian parliament adopted a bill on amendments to the Law on Higher Education. The most important innovation is the reduction of the minimum number of exam periods from 6 to 4. It means that you can try to pass your exam only 4 times during one year. Then there is Article 124 of the law, which states that students enrolled in 2010 and later, are not entitled to the fifth year of the budget. It doesn't matter If you are a "good student" or not, the state won't finance more than 4 years (it's a bit complicated, see below), and the number of available places on the budget is getting lower from year to year, while tuition is growing. Also universities have the right to charge you for many things, though you already have paid tuition fees. For example to register your exam you need to pay from 7 to 30 euros, to enroll for a year you pay from 20 to 50 euros, to transmit an exam to the next year from 100 to 350 euros, and tuition for one year is from 1000 to 3000 euros while average wage is around 390 euros. The official unemployment rate is close to 30 precent (more than 50 precent among the young population).

One academic year carries 60 ECTS. Basic academic studies last 4 years and carry a total of 240 points. Achievement of 48 points is a legal requirement for entry on the next year budget. The requirement of 48 points, which was valid for years, means that students have 12 points to be transmitted in the following year, so when these points are gathered it leaves 48 points for the fifth year. So, if a student has gained the right to enter the 4th year he/she automatically has the fifth year of the budget. The idea of the government was that there is a transition period in which the requirement for a budget increases, and programs are synchronized , so that the generation that entered in 2010 and later can give 60 points per year, which would mean no need for a fifth year of study. The plan never happened. Meanwhile 5 generations enrolled who are not eligible for the fifth year, but have all the aggravating circumstances that have so far existed.

A next protest is scheduled for October 21st.

For updates: Dokle više | Samoorganizovani studentski pokret 2014