Around 50 students at Madrid´s Complutense University (UCM) began the thirteenth day of a sit-in protest on Tuesday, aimed at reversing the rectorate´s decision to remove 3,500 undergraduates from the institute´s virtual campus for non-payment of course fees.
The affected alumni were eventually reinstated and told they could sit end-of-year exams, but with a caveat: their fees must be paid before September or they face expulsion from their courses, or will have to sign up again next year and pay double.
The 3,500 students have 10 days from today´s date to choose one of three payment methods: two payments in July and September; payment in four monthly installments from June to September; or a single payment in September. The situation was described by a university spokesman as "unprecedented."
José Carrillo, the dean, had promised a million-euro fund to tackle the problem, but the crisis seems to have put paid to the scheme. The UCM is one of the most indebted universities in Spain, with negative figures of 142 million euros.
At the beginning of the academic year the UCM warned of the consequences of fee hikes, which are 16 percent on average nationwide but 38 percent in Madrid. The criteria for obtaining grants were also toughened. Thousands of students received theirs halfway through the year while others await the outcome of appeals against initial denials of state aid. Many universities have set up a fund to bail out students in precarious financial situations.
One of the reasons for non-payment is that many students do not yet know if they have been given a grant for 2012-13. The UCM blames the Education Ministry for the delay, which in turn says the necessary documentation has not been received.
The ultimatum issued by UCM for the end of May has been extended until September, but the university staff has asked that fees be modified so that students can pay the courses they have already sat and leave the rest for another time. The student body has called for the university fund to be activated so that nobody need be excluded and that the time frame for meeting fees be extended even further. They have also asked Carrillo to agree to carry over results of exams sat this year over to the next.