By Carlos Seijas Meneses |
Caracas (EFE) de facto, the autonomy in the management of resources granted by law to higher education entities.
This is the “Mission Venezuela Bella”, a plan created four years ago to recover public spaces, among which the Executive has included the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), in the University City of Caracas, declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2001.
After having recovered 586 classrooms and 95 hectares of green areas, the state mission plans to restore 36 of its 108 works of art this year, despite the fact that their maintenance is the responsibility of the UCV Preservation and Development Council (Copred).
In a statement, Copred assured that these “intentions” to “start restoration work on 36 works of art” without communicating it or involving the study center represents “another act of aggression against university autonomy” and “one more demonstration of a official policy that denies dialogue”.
The danger of reforms
The university professor and director of the NGO Aula Abierta, David Gómez, told EFE that the plan represents “a danger that could result in another pattern of violation of university autonomy.”
He stressed that the maintenance of university spaces is “an activity of its own” of its autonomy, for which reason “it must be carried out based on the integral allocation of financing to universities.”
However, he warned, the Executive “imposes a budget suffocation against the universities”, which, in his opinion, is “the root of the progressive deterioration of their spaces, dependencies and services, affecting their teaching, research and extension processes.”
A policy of “budget abuse”
The rector of the University of Los Andes (ULA), Mario Bonucci, told EFE his disagreement with the Executive branch announcing the expansion of this plan when, at the same time, it applies an “unwritten policy” of “harassment and budgetary abuse” , which consists of the reduction of resources assigned for its operation, which has “deteriorated” the spaces.
“How can you talk about administrative autonomy if you don’t have money to manage with?” asks the rector of this center located in western Venezuela and which has an enrollment of 24,000 students, 50% less than the 48,000 that had in 2016.
He pointed out that, of the 1.3 million dollars that the State assigned in 2022 to the ULA, it delivered 42,222 dollars, that is, 3.24% of the amount, when the university requires an investment of about 30 million for the rehabilitation of spaces and the updating of telecommunications equipment.
In addition, since 2018, the Government “has not sent a single bolivar (the local currency) for the university dining room” of the ULA.
For her part, the rector of the UCV, Cecilia García Arocha, affirmed that the university “has been, for many years, subjected to a policy that reduced the budget allocated to insignificant quotas that, since 2020, have not been delivered”, which It has affected “the maintenance of the physical plant, research and extension.”
The official plan, in his opinion, “is not enough to cover all the needs that an adequate budget can. To educate freely and with quality, a constant and adequate investment is required, not a sporadic measure”.
Universities, beyond the facade
For Bonucci, “it is a mistake” to believe that a university is of “quality” and “is meeting its objectives” just because its infrastructure is “beautiful.”
“Not only do you have to think about the issue of infrastructure, you have to think about the investment you must make in state-of-the-art technology, you have to buy new computers or new equipment,” he said.
Also, “allocate money for programs that have to do with the training of our students, such as field practices, community service. You have to invest resources in the social security of your own employees, (…) and that is not being invested in, ”he said.
“What is the use of beautifying a university if you do not have a medical service for students, if you do not have state-of-the-art equipment for student training, if you do not have adequate financing for the generation of knowledge that is research, if you do not have the money for university extension?”, he concluded.