Friday, November 17, 2017

Birzeit University strike: students win major concessions on fee increase


By Matt Matthews - September 27, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [birzeit] [Birzeit University] [students]

After losing 27 consecutive days of income to striking students, Birzeit University has agreed to scale back a proposed hike in tuition fees.

Fees for new students will now increase by only 1 Jordanian Dinar (JD- $1.40) per hour of teaching, while returning students will pay no more than before. The crisis-resolving deal was announced by the university on September 22.

Initially, the administration of Palestine’s most prestigious body of higher education intended to ramp up fees by 4 JD ($6) for new students and 3 JD ($4.20) for those already studying.

“Year after year, they rise up the prices and the students can’t pay them,” English student Miriam Eini told the Palestine Monitor while the strike was still in effect. “So this year the Student Council closed the university in order to force the university to find another solution than their students’ pockets.”

The terms of the deal, agreed between the Student Council and the University, stipulate a freeze on fee increases until at least 2020. In-need students will also receive an additional one JD of financial support per tuition hour.

It is a major victory for the striking students, who have been camping, chanting and waving placards outside the gates of the university, demonstrating since the first day of the new semester on August 25.

Also announced is “a combined effort headed by Palestinian university student councils, workers’ unions and university administrations [to] address the Palestinian government vis-à-vis its responsibilities to higher education.”

While the university’s deficit has reached almost three million JD ($4.2 million), in the last year the Palestinian government has reportedly slashed its annual funding in half.

In a statement, the university condemned “the deterioration in subsidies from the Palestinian government in supporting higher education.”

Birzeit, which is ranked in the top 30 universities in the Arab world, receives 419,392 JD ($587,148) each year in government funding.

By way of contrast, a typical university in Saudi Arabia receives around 500,000 JD ($700,000) in public funding for each individual member of staff.


And student strikers agreed that the real cause of their problems was not to be found on campus, but 10km away, in the Ministry of Education in Ramallah.

“I think that the main target must be the state,” law student Fouad Massad told the Palestine Monitor. “It’s the responsibility of the state to provide free learning.”

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