Thirty students’ associations from around Portugal have launched a petition to call for an end to tuition fees and a new model of funding for higher education, which they want to be debated in parliament.
The movement “Rumo à propina Zero” (Towards zero fees) was formed in December and, according to João Rodrigues, president of the Lisbon Academic Federation of students’ unions, ever more such groups are joining the campaign for a change in the funding model.
In the petition, which is circulating online and already has some 2,000 signatures, supporters are calling for a debate in parliament on amending the law on funding higher education, in order gradually to reduce the weight of fees in the total budget of institutions that form part of the national public network.
“We want to change the course of education in Portugal and of country’s development,” said Rodrigues at a news conference in Lisbon. “We believe that it’s time to invest in higher education and this discussion must take place at the regional, local and national level with all agents that want to be involved.”
Alexandre Amado, president of the Coimbra Academic Association, explained why organisers wanted the subject debated in parliament.
“We want to get deputies debating fees as a model for financing higher education – a debate that will make clear that fees as a funding mechanism is also discriminatory in [terms of] access to [what is] a public good.”
According to the associations, over the past 30 years there has been sharp increase in the costs to students of attending higher education institutions. From 1991 to 2015 the average fee increased from a symbolic €6.50 a year to €1,063.47, making Portugal one of the countries in Europe where families contribute the most to paying for courses.