News 11 Feb 15

Macedonia Protesting Students Occupy Faculties

Marking a new stage in the protests against the Law on Higher Education, Macedonian students have occupied faculties in Skopje, proclaiming them an 'autonomous territory'.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

 

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Over a thousand students on Wednesday occupied the Skopje university faculties of Philosophy, Philology, Law and the Economy, proclaiming them an "autonomous students’ territory".

Students demand the immediate suspension of a new Law on Higher Education, which has introduced mandatory externally supervised exams.

In the meantime they also demand substantial talks with the government in preparing any new legislation, saying that so far they have been ignored and manipulated.

"We will stay here until our demands are met. We will sleep here and eat here. We call on all the students to join us on our autonomous territory because together we are stronger," the occupying students said in a statement.

The students, rallied around an informal movement called the Student's Plenum, got backup from many professors, themselves organized in the so-called Professors Plenum.

Students held up banners reading "No justice no peace", "We are angry" and "We occupy in order to liberate".

While in control of the campus, the students said they would organize alternative lectures, concerts and other events.  They said similar actions will take place in other faculties.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The most contested part of the new law that was adopted in mid-January obliges students to take a new "state exam" in their second year and again before they complete their studies. Government bodies, not the universities, are in charge of the exams.

Critics say mandatory externally supervised exams violate the autonomy of the universities.

Last December, over 12,000 students opposed to the plan attended a mass protest in Skopje. They were joined by professors who later set up their own informal movement, the Professors Plenum.

The government of Nikola Gruevski has ignored the protests. It insists that the reform will improve the quality of higher education. It has also blamed the protests on the opposition Social Democrats.

However, last Friday, Gruevski invited students to a meeting at which he told them that he would be willing to suspend the law for one year.

The Student's Plenum expressed skepticism and meanwhile said that it would continue to protest.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

 

 

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