Prague, Feb 15 (CTK) – The financing of universities in the Czech Republic lags behind the OECD average and must be enhanced, Education Minister Robert Plaga and Czech Rectors’ Conference (CKR) deputy head Mikulas Bek agreed at a ceremonial event marking 25 years from the establishment of the CKR on Thursday.

The CKR previously said the financing of Czech universities lags behind the average of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by eight to nine billion crowns a year.

During the ceremony on Thursday, Bek stressed the role universities play in promoting democratic values in the present divided society.

The state-projected budget of universities stagnated around 21 billion crowns for several years until 2017, when the government approved its three-billion-crown increase for 2018.

Bek, who is the rector of the Masaryk University in Brno, appreciated the increase, though universities originally demanded an increase of 4.5 billion crowns.

Bek said further negotiations with the cabinet are needed for the Czech Republic to reach the European average in this respect at least.

“The securing of a systemic and sustainable financing of Czech universities, their scientific work and lectures is our number one fundamental priority for 2018 and the following years,” Bek said.

Plaga (ANO), too, emphasised the need to enhance the financing of universities as a step to develop study programmes as well as academicians’ work as teachers and researchers, and boost the competitiveness of the Czech Republic.

Bek said changes in the systems of study programmes’ accreditation and science financing are also needed.

Universities must cope with the consequences of people’s mass access to high education, a diversity of the student population and the expected dramatic transformations of the labour market. They should enhance cooperation with foreign universities, Bek said, also calling for academicians’ bigger participation in social developments.

“Universities must help cultivate the environment and promote democratic values. In the current divided society, they should also act as a mediator between various social groups,” Bek said.

Apart from Czech academicians and politicians, the ceremonial CKR meeting was attended by European University Association (EUA) head Rolf Tarrach, German rectors’ confederation President Horst Hippler and Slovak Rectors’ Conference Vice-President Karol Micieta.

CKR head and Prague Charles University Rector Tomas Zima and Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) excused themselves due to an illness.

The CKR was established in January 1993 when the Czechoslovak federation split into two successor states. It is a member of the EUA. It has 49 members including the rectors of all 26 public universities, the two state universities and all 21 private colleges.

The CKR’s task is to promote the interests of universities and coordinate their positions on crucial expert as well as social issues.

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