Czech higher education is underfunded, according to the newly released 2024 education budget, predicting a future lacking in teachers and researchers as the proposed salary fails to cover basic living expenses. 

The Ministry of Education announced that the 2024 education budget is CZK 269 billion. From the proposed draft, universities are expected to receive CZK 30.9 billion—the same as last year. Stagnant funding from year to year results in chronic deficits from the institutes.

Investment in higher education does not break-even when compared to salaries in academia, especially as the price of a Master or PhD degree in English is predicted to inflate by 15%. With the Czech Republic ranked as one of the most expensive countries in Central and Eastern Europe, graduates are discouraged from pursuing research or teaching as a career. 

Photo by: HP Nguyen

“There are outflows from all our faculties. Teachers are going abroad, but also to secondary schools, because our salaries are no longer competitive in some areas,” said Milena Kralickova, the rector at Charles University. 

A professor’s assistant earned CZK 44,500 per month, while the average salary of secondary school teachers was CZK 52,500, according to the Ministry of Education’s 2022 report. With research assistantships as the gateway to a full-time profession in academia, underfunding discourages graduates from pursuing a career in higher education. 

“A full-time researcher’s wage is comparable to a supermarket cashier. A similar position in Munich would pay four times the amount,” said a humanities research assistant. 

Czech institutions are incapable of competing internationally, where the average monthly wage is €1400. Public spending on tertiary education in the Czech Republic corresponds to 0.86% of GDP, while the EU average is 1.27%, according to Eurostat data.

Photo by: HP Nguyen

At the end of 2023, multiple protests demanded the Czech government’s immediate attention. The Hour of Truth initiative was the leading movement, stemming from the dissatisfaction with the 2024 budget. 

Thirteen faculties from nine different universities in the country participated in the Hour of Truth protest—eight of which were the Departments of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Strikes surged nationwide, with the largest turnout from Charles University in Prague, followed by Palacky University in Movarian Olomouc. 

Photo by: HP Nguyen

“The brain drain within Charles University is unfortunately real, but not only from the Faculty of Arts; the entire sphere of universities is underfunded,” a protestor from Charles University said. 

In response to these disparities, the Ministry of Education proposes to develop a new budget with an additional CZK 800 million to alleviate the deficit. As the Hour of Truth unfolds, every response from the government is held accountable for further disruptive strikes if the demands are unmet.