Colombian Minister of Education María Fernanda Campo announced today that the ministry will scrap the controversial higher education reform, Ley 30, which is currently in the hands of Congress. The government’s concession on the issue marks a major victory for public university and high school students and labor unions that have banded together to stage nationwide protests. Their actions have paralyzed major streets in the nation’s capital; activists have also occupied several public universities in opposition to the law.
During a press conference last month, Minister Campo maintained that the government “will not revoke the reform because it will only bring benefits.” But responding to sustained pressure from students, the minister said on Tuesday that the government would officially kill the bill in Congress within the next 24 hours and called for a meeting as soon as this week between the government, students, professors, and school directors to discuss new higher education reforms.
President Juan Manuel Santos and Minister Campo have vigorously defended Ley 30 over the past several weeks, saying that the reforms will strengthen the university system by investing $3.5 billion into higher education over the next decade, boosting enrolment by 600,000 and offering scholarships to top students. But students fear that the reforms will undermine the autonomy of universities and raise the cost of education; another concern is that an influx of students will overwhelm already cash-strapped universities. The student opposition to Ley 30, led by Colombia’s National Student Round Table (MANE), responded to Tuesday’s announcement saying they will only return to the negotiating table once the bill is officially withdrawn.