Higher education students’ associations today called for a solution to the “scourge of the lack of affordable housing” for displaced students and put together proposals to send to the tutelage.
“With the current high prices of accommodation, which are added to the costs of tuition fees, study materials, food and health, there are students who choose to give up on higher education,” warned the president of the Lisbon Academic Federation, Catarina Ruivo, contacted by the Lusa news agency at the end of a national meeting in Almada.
For two days, the National Meeting of Associative Directorates (ENDA) brought together around 250 leaders of student associations in Almada to discuss some of the priorities in higher education, such as accommodation, social action, promoting academic success and preventing dropouts.
Catarina Ruivo indicated that the leaders present at the meeting stressed the importance of monitoring the implementation of the National Plan for Accommodation in Higher Education (PNAES), pointing out the “insufficiency of the measures recommended” in that plan, and the “More Housing” package in “implementing short-term solutions for displaced students”.
In this context, ENDA has requested a series of clarifications from the Ministry regarding the monitoring of the number of beds available each school year, the number of housing complements allocated and their renewal, and the measures designed to combat the parallel rental market.
She also asked for data on the impact of instruments such as the Public Housing Stock Exchange, the Recovery and Resilience Program and the Affordable Rent Program on student housing, she said.
“The associative movement underlined [at the meeting] the state’s responsibility as a promoter of the right to housing, calling for increased public investment in the maintenance and construction of social housing,” he said.
For the leaders, it’s important to “guarantee decent housing conditions and broaden the accessibility of these facilities by capping the tuition fees paid by non-scholarship students”.
The leaders also advocate, in the area of housing, “always giving priority to scholarship students and the most needy candidates”, allowing students on academic work and scholarship students from Portuguese-speaking African countries to stay during non-lecture months.
With regard to national housing programs, it has been proposed that any student enrolled in higher education should be able to benefit from the Affordable Rent Program for temporary residence.
They are also asking for the licensing process for the rehabilitation and construction of student housing to be simplified under the “More Housing” package, and for the possibility of using the National Fund for the Rehabilitation of Buildings “without the need for future reimbursement”.
In the area of social action, it was stressed, among other things, “the fundamental role of scholarships in promoting equality in access to higher education, proposing that students applying for scholarships be exempt from paying the required tuition fee, including at the time of enrolment, until they receive the result of their application”.
Regarding the promotion of academic success and dropout prevention, the leaders considered it “urgent to adapt higher education institutions to the current reality of teaching”, urging the tutelage to “provide institutions with the most up-to-date and appropriate tools for new pedagogical practices, whether in the context of assessment, classroom or self-study”.
The president of the Lisbon Academic Federation told Lusa that the proposals will be sent next week to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, the Directorate-General for Higher Education, the sector’s institutions and the political parties.
This morning’s meeting was attended by the Secretary of State for Higher Education, Pedro Nuno Teixeira, and Andreia Lopes from the Erasmus+ Agency, who took part in the training and discussion of the associative movement with the tutelage.
The next National Meeting of Associative Directions will be held on December 2 and 3, 2023, in Coimbra, in charge of the Students’ Associations of the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra.