Financial Support for Students in Higher Education in the Czech Republic: a System Overhaul Is Required

15 September, 2021

Financial support for students in higher education in the Czech Republic has not received the attention it deserves over the past decade. Not only has the general public lost little sleep over this matter, but academics and politicians have largely ignored it, too, a new study by Daniel Münich and Otakar Kořínek from the the think-tank IDEA at CERGE-EI suggests.

In European comparison, the support for socio-economically weak students is extremely low. Only a very small proportion of students are eligible for publicly funded social scholarships, which provide only minimal financial support in any case. No data is currently collected on the demographic or social status of scholarship recipients. Similarly, there is no data measuring the extent to which children from poorer backgrounds are deterred from university study by the low level of available support. The amount of funding made available through social scholarships and the breadth of the pool of students eligible for them is not regularly increased in response to inflation or students' rising living costs, but is revised in connection with ad hoc raises made to the minimum wage and living wages.

The highly socio-economically selective nature of the overall Czech education system, which is deeply linked to children's family backgrounds, influences which students have any ambition to continue into higher education. There are four factors specific to the Czech Republic that have so far reduced awareness of the need for greater and more accessible financial support for students: (i) the very narrow income distribution in the Czech society; (ii) the low unemployment rate (among parents); (iii) the absence of tuition fees for study at public universities; and (iv) the high level of socio-economic selectivity in the education system, from preschool through to secondary school. This last factor reduces the share of young people from poorer backgrounds who have any inclination or ambition to study at university. As still relatively low socio-economic gaps in Czech society (i.e. among parents) will probably widen in the future, and if the social selectivity of schooling is successfully reduced in the future, the weaknesses of the current system of student support will become more evident.

Full text of the study "Financial support for students in higher education in the Czech Republic: a system overhaul is required" (in Czech)