Universities, which have historically faced financial constraints as acknowledged by the Education Ministry, are set to receive a minimum of CZK 1.3 billion more next year compared to the initial budget proposal. This boost in funding is accompanied by a planned alteration in the financing approach, aimed at enhancing their long-term sustainability.
Radka Wildová, the head of the ministerial division overseeing higher education, science, and research, made this announcement during a Senate public hearing on Monday.
According to Wildová, the ministry allocated an additional CZK 930 million to universities within the institutional category through internal restructuring in both the fixed and executive segments. Additionally, funding for the long-term strategic development of research organizations has been increased by CZK 387 million. Wildová stressed that this represents the maximum feasible allocation at this time.
The ministry has earmarked approximately CZK 30.903 billion for universities in next year’s budget draft, which marks an increase of CZK 2.3 billion from the previous year.
This year, universities are expected to receive a total of CZK 30.915 billion, according to the Ministry of Education’s budget breakdown. The overall education budget for the upcoming year is projected to be around CZK 269 billion, which is an increase of four billion compared to the current year, mainly attributed to higher salaries for primary and secondary school educators.
The situation is anticipated to ameliorate over the course of the next two years. “The upcoming year will be challenging,” commented Deputy Education Minister Jaroslav Miller regarding the state of universities. However, he emphasized that unspent funds from previous years remain available. The deputy expects significant improvements starting in 2025, coinciding with the ministry’s plans to overhaul the funding system that has been in place since the mid-1990s.
This transformation is expected to be orchestrated by a panel of experts, with consideration given to implementing contractual funding, which would provide universities with guaranteed subsidies for several years ahead. Another option being explored is linking university spending to the gross domestic product (GDP), a demand also raised by university representatives.
Milena Králíčková, the rector of Charles University in Prague, emphasized that the underfunding issue facing universities is a long-term challenge that cannot be resolved overnight. She stressed the need for a medium-term perspective aimed at fostering a knowledge-based economy. Králíčková also proposed measures such as expanding foreign language programs for international students and greater engagement with practical applications, potentially through the issuance of micro-certificates for skills and knowledge acquisition.
Martin Štěpnička, Vice-Rector of the University of Ostrava, highlighted that higher education funding has decreased from 0.48% to 0.42% of GDP in recent years. He pointed out that spending on higher education in the Czech Republic lags behind that of Slovakia and Poland. The country’s public expenditure on tertiary education, at 0.86% of GDP, falls short of the EU average of 1.27% of GDP, highlighting a notable disparity in educational investment.
In response to the ongoing financial challenges, academics from the philosophy faculties of Charles University and Palacký University in Olomouc have announced a strike scheduled for October 17, citing inadequate wages and teaching conditions.
Dean of the Olomouc philosophy faculty, Jan Stejskal, revealed that the underfunding issue amounts to CZK 10 billion annually, with assistant professors receiving lower salaries than their counterparts in secondary schools. Among potential solutions, Stejskal suggested basing university funding on the economic intensity of individual study programs, promoting efforts to eliminate wage disparities between faculties, and reducing redundant study programs among universities, subject to a potential debate moderated by the National Accreditation Office.