In a country where even the daily train schedule cannot be met, and trains are late and unsafe to an unconceivable extent, we should at least enjoy the fact that the opening of universities respects the traditional calendar and October 1 is perceived, this time, as primordially a university day. The day when a new creative time begins, which allows Romania to measure its ascendency in the world of computer civilisation. Let’s enjoy it, without ignoring the difficulties and internal tensions that accompany the debut of the university year 2013-2014.
As it is well known, the psycho-social motivation of the preparation through higher education is on a permanent decline and, today, those who hold a baccalaureate or university diploma account for over one third of the total number of jobless in Romania. Access to hostels and canteens is more difficult because the increasing numbers of students, from 80-100,000 in 1989 to several hundreds of thousands now, was not reflected by a similar growth of accommodation facilities for students.
Today, the regular cost of a place in a hostel amounts to sums that are hard to sustain, while on the “black market” it sells for over EUR 100, with all resulting risks. The same reason makes a meal ticket at the canteen a rather inaccessible commodity, forcing many students to improvise their food on a day-to-day basis, to the detriment of a rather precarious health state.
The underfinancing of the Romanian education system has dramatic consequences upon the university sector. The scientific and technical endowment of faculties is more problematic each year, blocking professors’ efforts to act as scientific researchers. This issue is increasingly acute today, when everywhere in the world higher education and scientific research are intertwined so that they harmonise the effects of globalisation. Also because of its underfinancing, our higher education sector is also prey to corruption. Of late, prosecutors probed even university rectors that took bribes. Adding to this, even the exigency of universities is declining. Admission to most private universities, but also to some public ones, is made without an exam, only on a paid basis. This is against the constitutional right of free and non-discriminating access to education. And the situation takes impetus precisely because of an ever poorer financing of the university sector.
Scientific research – we are told – still has outstanding results, in the university education sector. It could even help some faculties find financing, as it is norm in European countries. But the inventions and innovations resulting from the creativeness of our professors often remain useless in the country, so selling them has actually become impossible. Why? Because the Romanian industry has largely disappeared. And even where it exists, its managers – most of them coming from abroad and poorly adapted to Romanian realities – prefer imported patents over local ones.
And the bad consequences of Romanian economy also have impact on the practical training of students, which has generally disappeared. The necessary organic correlation between theoretical education and practical training has faded away, precisely because students no longer have access to plants, factories and workshops, to improve their skills. The traditional programmes of ‘practical training’ cannot be enforced anymore, from lack of facilities. Under the pressure of this reality, it appears as normal the employers’ preference to seek not only theoretical, but especially practical training when they hire a university graduate. With this type of training being scarce in Romanian universities, the deficit fuels the inflation of jobless with university diplomas and, implicitly, their migration in ever higher numbers.
It also favours illegal labour, which is reaching ever more grotesque levels. Under the pressure of unemployment, the youths that accept a job without legal forms work 10-12 hours a day, without being paid for the overtime. Plus, more and more “employers” who also take liberties from the moral law force the young graduates, at the hiring moment, to also sign blank resignations that free the company from all obligation when it no longer needs the services of its new employee.
Yet, faith and hope can be seen in the eyes of these youths that consider the ‘Gaudeamus igitur’ not only as the student’s anthem, but also as an optimistic state of mind. The optimism is also present in the fact that students’ associations and leagues are preoccupied not only with obtaining specific benefits like access to hostels and canteens, but are also committed to the struggle of professors’ councils and university senates to equip laboratories, libraries, to increase the quality of the higher education process. Several such actions, conducted recently, make us hope that this university year will see many similar initiatives, also expressed by protests. These tests of maturity let us hope in a decline of the drug consumption that seriously affects university life, as a hope for the eradication of the mercantile, opportunist and antinational spirit that also comes in contradiction with the traditions of Romanian students which consecrated it as a decisive factor for the moral regeneration of the country.
With such hopes for the better we should associate, this year too, the anthem’s invocation ‘Vivat Academia! Vivant professores!’