In Argentina, universities and research institutes are on the verge of collapse

In Argentina, universities and research institutes are on the verge of collapse

Universities and scientific research are on the verge of suffocation. Left to fend for themselves by the new Argentine government, they face a brutal lack of resources at the start of the academic year. At issue is far-right President Javier Milei’s decision to extend the 2024 budget for 2023, while inflation reached 276.2% over the past twelve months. The consequences for Argentina’s public higher education and research institutions, including the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet, equivalent to the CNRS in France), are already being felt, pushing the entire system toward paralysis.

On Thursday, March 14, the country’s fifty-seven public universities closed their doors in a massive strike. The announcement, the day before, by their new supervisory ministry, the Ministry of Human Capital, of a 70% increase in the university budget, starting in March and without including salaries, to cope with rising costs was not enough to allay the worry and anger that has been building for several weeks. “Science is cheap, ignorance is”we read on the signs that highlight events in the scientific world.

“This means a reduction of almost 70% of budgets in all areas of higher education”underlines Emiliano Yacobitti, Vice Rector of the University of Buenos Aires, the largest in the country, with almost 350,000 students at all levels in 2022. In addition to the drastic reduction in operating costs, there is a salary freeze. Argentinians will lose a third of their purchasing power within two months, and the reduction of research subsidies and the budgets of university hospitals.

“Disqualify the public university”

Teachers, staff or students who can no longer go to university due to transport costs, the inability to ensure the maintenance and safety of the buildings are just some of the difficulties they will face in the field of research and higher education . “In the field of science, it is impossible to obtain reagents, which means that there are fewer and fewer projects that can continue”quotes Emiliano Yacobitti.

“There will be a deterioration in the quality of education, a decline in rankings, a loss of value of diplomas, a reduction in exchanges between universities”, worries the vice-rector of the University of Buenos Aires. “There will be a deterioration in the quality of education, a decline in rankings, a loss of value of diplomas and a reduction in exchanges between universities,” worries the vice-rector of the University of Buenos Aires. He sees in the government’s actions a “strategy to disqualify the public university in the eyes of society and then… close it down or privatize it”specifying that such a measure would involve constitutional reform.

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