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Student all-night sit-in at ministry of education in protest over university grant policies
thinkSPAIN , Sunday, July 16, 2017

A BUNCH of undergraduates staged a lock-in at the ministry of education in protest over the government's college grant policies on Friday, the State Council of University Students (CEUNE) has just reported.

Around 20 of their members had gone along to the Council's meeting at the ministry to debate a new Royal Decree, or bill of law covering student grants which is due to be approved this month – but the government's education boss, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, did not turn up.

The students considered this to be an unacceptable act of contempt towards them, and staged a sit-in.

They ended up spending the whole night inside the ministry building.

The new Decree will regulate means testing for grant entitlement, setting the asset and income threshold which dictate whether students will get any cash to pay for their studies and living costs, and the amount they will receive for the forthcoming academic year.

The protesting students say they spent five hours negotiating with ministry staff, but reached no agreement whatsoever, and criticise Méndez de Vigo for 'standing them up'.

Sources from the ministry of education, culture and sports say Méndez de Vigo had been unable to attend as he was required at a Council of Ministers meeting, but that he had been 'perfectly well represented' by his secretary-general for universities, Jorge Sáinz.

State education authorities also insisted that the current grant system 'does not prevent any student from pursuing higher education through being unable to afford it', but stresses that it has no plans to change the minimum grade required for grant access.

Although the pass mark for Selectividad, the generic university entrance exam taken at the end of sixth form, is 50%, any student who fails to achieve 55% will not get a grant to cover their tuition fees.

And to obtain a grant towards living costs, they must achieve a minimum grade of 65% in Selectividad.

This means a high number of students pass their university entrance exam, but do not qualify for any money to go, so they have to retake it the following year as they would if they had failed.

And many more pass the exam with a comfortable margin, but still have to take another year out to re-sit it as the lack of financial help with living costs means they cannot go to college.

But the ministry sources say they do not intend to agree to grants for everyone who exceeds the basic pass mark, as was previously the case, since authorities want to 'promote a culture of conscientiousness'.

University deans and professors do not agree, recalling that results in one-off exams should not be considered a definitive benchmark of a student's ability when he or she may have simply not been on form that one day, and have been pressuring the government for the past five years to allow tuition-fee and cost-of-living grants to everyone who passes Selectividad.


Photograph by the political party Podemos, on Twitter



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