Blogs posted by Edgaras Gudavicius

Here you can find all blogs posted by Edgaras Gudavicius about the FinSt project.
Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011 at 11:17 by Edgaras Gudavicius

Dear FinSt followers,

In this last entry of my blog, I would like to summarize our two week experience in Vienna and address the last, fourth knob, that could serve as a factor of reality for our ideal financing systems.

But first, I would like to thank all the ESU and ÖH people involved in making this adventure a reality for us. We have spent a great time in Vienna, with wonderful people from all around Europe. Such an exchange, which lasts for two weeks, is extremely hard to accomplish, but You made it a reality :-)


During the two weeks, we got to know the beautiful city of Vienna and quite a lot of beautiful people, who live there. We got to know ÖH and not only the national delegation, but also a lot of local unions around the city. We also got to know the higher education system of Austria, with its structures and financing mechanisms. Yet, in all of these parts we also got to discuss and provide quite some input on their respective topics. With the biggest contribution being our five page long paper on the key essentials of every financing system.

In one of my previous posts, I have already mentioned the three vital knobs, which could lead to an efficient financing system. We have also made a paper of what are the key essential elements of higher education financing. Now, it all sounds very efficient, sustainable and quite too ideal if we leave out one of the factors, which all the critics should have fallen in love with by now - Money. It is extremely easy for anyone in the financing chain to simply say, "Okay, sorry, we ran out of cash". Yes, it is very easy to do that when the backbone of a nation does not see that this is their public responsibility, or simply, their money. Their money, which ends up in various, often creepy, places instead of funding their daughters or sons higher education. The concept of public responsibility is as important, or even more important than the concept of public good; hence the later can never be achieved without perfecting the first.


Therefore, I am introducing the last knob in my four knob scheme for better higher education financing - the level of public responsibility. With this level being all the way down, nobody cares about financing higher education, thus no mechanisms for efficient taxation will ever be introduced and there will never be enough money to get to our beloved public good. Instead, we will eventually end up with loans, debt, defaults and all kinds of 'crisis'. With this level being all the way up, people will realize the benefits that higher education brings to the society, will be fully informed and provide a huge grassroots push for efficient taxation and transparent distribution of funds to maintain higher education as a public good.

With that said, I would like to wish the best of luck to the upcoming Estonian FinSt Crew in the battle for a better tomorrow :-)

I would also like to thank all the readers and FinSt followers for all their feedback and dissemination of our blog posts. It brought unimaginable joy for all of us knowing that people read and discuss our blogs.

Over and out!

Edgar and the Austrian FinSt crew
Posted on Mon 12 Dec 2011 at 16:58 by Edgaras Gudavicius

Greetings dear FinSt followers,

Friday was a fun packed day with visiting two HEI's, discussing about legitimacy of student governed places and trying out food at a very interesting restaurant.

It all started by meeting up with Kilian, who took us to the Vienna University of Technology. There, we met the local union people, who finally explained to us how ÖH elections and structures work (hurray!). Also, these were the coziest and welcoming people, so kudos for that! After sorting out all of the structure questions that we still had, we had some food and Kilian came back to take us away to University BoKu.

Actually, Kilian is really a great guy and all of us are forever grateful for all the help and support that he had provided throughout this whole week, even though we were very devilish and were usually teasing him.


Over at BoKu we visited the local union and the ESN office there. These guys were also very welcoming and we really enjoyed our time there. But it didn't take long till Moritz came and showed us around the student governed house at BoKu. They had their own meeting room, bar/club, lots of various rooms for your crafting needs, etc... The history of this place went way back, when it was given to the students, then taken away cause of sabotage from the inside, then taken back by a protest of the students, who basically went to the rector and said "You give us the key, or we get inside anyway".

We were asked to discuss the legitimacy of such student housing and actually how legal is it to take it like that. Well, from my point of view, taking the place via a protest is more legal than not recognizing the most important stakeholder of uni government - the student. We all know how many times it has been reaffirmed, that students should be treated as equal partners in HEI governing... Well, sometimes you have to show that by other means.

From another point of view, we should not forget the fact, that the building was basically just standing there and the uni was paying rent for it. So, let's remember the second knob of efficient financing, which discusses efficient finance usage and distribution within the HE sector. This is clearly not the case, which got fixed by a student protest. I, myself, have really enjoyed that place, which had all the opportunities to study, do meetings and chill out for students. But, what does this mean if we look deeper? We can easily notice that the university isn't providing any of the following opportunities properly, hence the demand for them. So, again we stumble across inefficient finance usage.

After all the thoughts and discussions on freedom, we continued to a place called Deewan, which had a really distinctive business model. Basically, you eat all you want and then pay an amount, which you believe is fair and worth the food that you have eaten. Most of us paid around 5€ and the food was really great!

All in all, despite my hurting feet from hard shoes and all the walking, I have really enjoyed Vienna and all the great ÖH people that we got to know. My biggest thanks still go to my roommate for this week - Moritz. For all the help and support throughout this week for myself and the whole crew!


Edgar and the Austrian FinSt crew
Posted on Fri 09 Dec 2011 at 21:38 by Edgaras Gudavicius

Hello Good People!

The 3rd day has passed for the Austrian FinSt crew with even more work and discussions about higher education financing. Today we spent the whole day at the office with Tinja and ended it with our own hand made cinema!

The day started at 10:00 in the office with a quick briefing from Tinja on our schedule and activities for the next day. Then everyone presented their pimped out presentations on their countries higher education institution financing models. For me it was particularly interesting to hear about the Spanish financing system and it being closely connected to your families economical background. While some might say that it is not liberal and kind of discriminating people, I find it quite logical and accurate. Usually, the ones that cannot afford tuition fees are exactly from families of poorer economic background and these are the ones that actually need that support. Although that does sound good, we should look at it a little bit deeper. At a glance it looks fair, at another glance you notice the magic words "Tuition Fees". That is exactly where it goes wrong. While there are a lot of countries, which are already used to having tuition fees, at the same time there are those who are still fighting for the truly free education, which is at least in some aspect closer to the concept of the public good. It is sad that we are forgetting the usual chain, which most countries are following: free education -> partially free education -> tuition fees and grant/loan based education -> loan based education -> DEBT. No wonder people are starting to call us "the indebted generation"...


After calming our brains with a great lunch at a turkish restaurant, we received our "homework" for the next week and continued to discuss financing models. After long discussions on the ideal financing systems some thoughts crossed my mind. Basically we all know that higher education is affirmed as a public good and a public responsibility. By now, most people already get the point what those two terms mean. But what can we really do about it? The ideal system, of course, is when everyone has access to quality higher education and doesn't have to pay for it. Yet, every country is extremely different, with most of them encountering the problem of massification and the inability for the government to provide that high quality public good for everyone. As it is obvious, it is basically due to the lack of money. Or is it really? My question is whether anyone honestly tried to tune the money flows and check whether it is spent efficiently? I am particularly addressing the three major "knobs" of financing:

1. The actual government TAX distribution efficiency.
2. Efficient money usage and distribution within the higher education sector itself.
3. Efficient and non-discriminative distribution of the actual higher education "good".

With these three "knobs" I am addressing the point that there is usually not enough budget allocation for higher education, or the whole budgeting is done inefficiently, so the "we don't have any more money, sorry" card is used. Then, if we eventually efficiently distribute the money of the public and the higher eduction sector gets the right amount of funding, we must look at how it is distributed here, inside the sector. This is where it is of most importance to have student representatives within HEI governing bodies, which deal with financing. Even though there is a popular belief that this is not a student issue at all and students do not have the competence to deal with strategic and financial decisions, I believe that students are the strongest stakeholders, who, by pursuing their own interest, want better higher education. So, let us say now that we have a really efficient distribution of tax, the higher eduction sector funding is maximized and the money is also efficiently distributed and used within the sector, we must provide an also efficient model of distributing the higher education good to the society, which is affected by massification. Currently, in a lot of countries we can observe very different admission and "excludability" models. Yes, you got me - Excludability models. By this I mean that countries are searching for the most fair ways to exclude people from higher education, justifying that there is not enough to provide for everyone. And so, I believe that we should not be searching for fair ways to exclude people, but for ways to include everyone.

Alright, enough serious stuff for today. After all of the brain-bleeding, we found quite some wine, which was left from last nights christmas party and Jorge had the new Jeff Dunham DVD "Controlled Chaos". So, it didn't take long for us to occupy the big ÖH meeting room, get some pizzas and put up our dvd on the beamer. We ended the day with great pizza, great wine and a good laugh.


More adventures on our 4th day and interesting thoughts about students as equal partners in HEI infrastructure usage coming up tomorrow!

Stay Tuned!


Edgar and the Austrian FinSt crew