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POLAND: Student Protests

Last week, a group of students of the Warsaw University began protesting against Deputy PM Gowin’s higher education reform. Yesterday, the protest spread to a number of other cities. The protesters argue that the new reform will marginalise smaller academic institutions – only best-ranked institutions will be able to grant academic titles. Additionally, they point out that the Council – a proposed governing body in academic institutions – may jeopardise their independence. Further postulates refer less to the reform itself, but rather general issues of employment, wages, job security and academic autonomy. Deputy PM Gowin has engaged in dialogue with the academic community and promised some concessions.

The bill, however, is now undergoing the legislative process in parliament and already has approximately 100 provisions amended by PM Morawiecki. The protest comes as a surprise. The reform proposal was generally considered one of the best publicly consulted draft bills – preparations spanned over 2 years. For Gowin this reform is a flagship project – determining his success as Higher Education Minister. He will likely be keen to satisfy the protesting community to some extent in exchange for a political premium ahead of the upcoming local elections. On the other hand the protests are only attracting a fraction of the student community and they are not likely to grow.