Dear Friends, Distinguished Colleagues in the social sciences and humanities,
Please allow us to make the following appeal to you. In the Czech Republic, our disciplines have long been fatally underfunded, and we specialists at universities, who are required to be highly qualified and combine scholarly and teaching performance, are paid much less than the graduates of those same departments who go on to teach at secondary and primary schools. A comparison with the average salary in the cities where we operate shows a deep disparity, and competitiveness with private industry is beginning to wane for the university-educated population. Many of us are pondering whether we should even remain in the field, and the new generation of scholars is disappearing before they even enter doctoral studies. For those who remain, it is often a choice to accept conditions which are hardly compatible with a decent life and the possibility of securing a family or a home of their own. The situation is escalating because of the government’s planned austerity measures, where savings will again be made at the cost of our faculties and institutes.
We have held a number of negotiations at the government level over the past year, we created a strong Hour of Truth initiative and have even gone on strike, but with three Ministers of Education changing hands in just one year, there is a discontinuity in the education policy and our entire sector is being overlooked and increasingly undervalued.
Since the voices of local scholars and teachers are not being heard, we are addressing those of you who have experience from your own countries and who, like us, are facing a difficult situation in the Czech universities where you work. Perhaps your voice, allowing for a comparison and providing a different perspective, could interest the media and politicians and allow the Czech public grasp what a terrible course of action our government is pursuing in worsening the underfunding of the social sciences and humanities. Consequently, we would like to ask you to read through the following statement, consider supporting it, and contribute your own story. We would like to publish your views on our website and try to reach out to the media and Czech government as well.
Please, send your response to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you very much for your time.
We are foreign university teachers and PhD candidates working in the Czech Republic. We have chosen our place of work because we are interested in advancing the social sciences and humanities in the country. However, many of us currently have to consider if our living and working conditions are tolerable and whether it makes sense to pursue our academic careers here if the Czech Republic does not provide the necessary financial support for these fields to thrive.
Our experience, as well as available statistics, show that the remuneration of academic work in the Czech Republic is utterly noncompetitive compared to other professions or other types of schools, and fails in comparison with developed countries where our profession is considered prestigious.
We caution the government of the Czech Republic and the individual universities that if this situation is not rectified, it will drive away foreign academics, reduce internationalization, and damage the reputation of the Czech Republic in the European context. Globally, it appears that education is the way out of crisis, while here the opposite is taking place.
We hereby call on the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the Minister for Education to increase funding for education and research without delay so that the Czech Republic can stand out in the European region, and so that conditions for the performance of highly qualified academic work can be restored.
Name, department, and area of expertise.
My story (what am I doing in the Czech Republic?).
Are the salary conditions at the university decent and sufficient?
Is my career at risk?
Have I ever considered changing my place of work?
Name, department, and area of expertise.
Elizabeth Woock, Department of British and American Studies, History and popular media
„If housing expenses go up in the city (rent in a suburb already eats up about half my take-home income) I will have to reconsider my work. If my job is at risk, it’s not because I am doing a bad job, or failing at my duties. The risk is that you don’t need a PhD to understand that ending each month with no financial margin – no savings, no money to spare for home repairs or small luxuries like one evening out – is unsustainable.“
David livingstone, Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Palacký University, English literature, Shakespeare, American Folk Music, Children’s literature
„In order to pay off my mortgage and support my family (wife, three children and mother-in-law), I had to do a number of jobs on the side: my own language school, translations, editing work, etc. This has, of course, slowed down significantly my own development as a scholar and of course the time I have been able to dedicate to my primary profession.“
Wilken Engelbrecht, Dept. Dutch Studies, Faculty of Arts, Palacký University Olomouc, Full Professor in Theory of Literature
„To my astonishment, my better academic position in 2005, when I became Associate Professor („docent“) meant a lower salary, as the higher taxes meant less netto pay. Since ca. 2018, the salary is in fact from year to year worse, because salary increases are not enough to keep up with inflation, a fact that has been particularly threatening in the past two years.“
Daniele De Santis, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies (Úfar), at Charles University.
„If upon my arrival the situation was difficult but still manageable, over the last two/three years it has become literarily intolerable.“
Anna Tropia, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies (ÚFaR) of Charles University, Prague, medieval philosophy.
„My life is at risk. Without being dramatic, you can live with 1300 euro if you don’t have a family and if you are young, healthy and receive family support from time to time. I am 40 and this is not my case. Also, being someone who lives abroad, far from her parents, I always fear the moment when I will have to run to see them for something is wrong. I also fear I won’t be able to offer to my daughter all I want for her, from education to travels..“
Chiara Mengozzi, Department of Romance studies, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague
„I won in 2013 a position as an assistant professor specializing in French literature at the University of Hradec Králové. For a part-time position that involved 9 hours of teaching per week, I earned 6000 crowns net. I can very honestly say that when I received my first paycheck I burst into tears.“