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Komsomolskaya Pravda, August 21, 2003

Students advocate a free education: they unite in the struggle against extortion in universities

By Maxim Pokrovsky

The YABLOKO party turned out to be a traditional and efficient ally of the students in their fight for their rights.

The middle of August is the time to take stock for Russian universities and their applicants, who have just passed harsh entrance exams. However, another serious and even dangerous burden - extortion - has been added to the usual problems of the applicants.

This is how we can name a situation where the entrance marks of applicants are deliberately understated, in the belief g that the young person will thus choose a commercial (Ed. i.e. paid) department. And those who have already become students are made to pay for virtually everything from the right to use a university library to the possibility to sit again a previously failed exam.

Such a situation can exist either owing to a negligence or a direct order from the bureaucrats who are fed by the education of future specialists. The scheme of extortion in education is simple - universities get money from students, the heads of the universities are supported by the bureaucrats in the education sector and local administrations. Students have no rights.

Such a situation provokes riots among young people. In June students from the Moscow State Linguistic University expressed their dissatisfaction. Once this bureaucracy began its attack, a powerful campaign aimed at discrediting the student movement was launched in the press. Students were especially indignant over the publication in the central and regional press
of an open letter by rectors and teachers of universities condemning deputy of the State Duma from the YABLOKO faction, Chairman of the Duma Committee for Education Alexander Shishlov, as he dared to support the demands from students of Moscow State Linguistic University.

All this is leading students to unite to protect their rights. On August 20, 2003, the first students' interactive television bridge of the university students Moscow-Chelyabinsk-Ekaterinburg-Novosibirsk took place, where the students announced the formation of an interregional nationwide movement "Students for a Free Education". The declaration published by the students runs, "Continuous extrotions, corruption, blackmail with army conscription and arbitrary rule of the bureaucrats in education have become a sad reality of Russian higher school. Today we have virtually reached critical mass."

The authors of the declaration do not oppose paid education as such, but do express their apprehension that the university bureaucracy is going to raise its prices, which is connected with the campaign in the press. The goal of the students is observation of the law and the right to a free education.

The new movement regards university teachers and the academic intelligentsia of Russian universities as its allies. Like the students they are also under pressure from the 'educational' bureaucracy. The YABLOKO party turned out to be a traditional and efficient ally of the students in their fight for their rights. It helped the students to resolve the conflict at the Moscow State Linguistic University. The fact that many of the party members represent academic intelligentsia makes it a natural ally of the student movement. In view of the coming [parliamentary] elections, the initiative of the young people can gain wide support. It is unlikely that some political structure can protect the bureaucrats sitting on the students' shoulders. Thus, students have a good chance to find influential patrons among Duma deputies and representatives of the executive authorities. However, time will show whether the deputies will have the requisite will to fight for student rights after the election campaign.


See also:

Reform in Education

Komsomolskaya Pravda, August 21, 2003

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