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Professors Are Fleeing Socialist Venezuela

The best and brightest of Venezuela’s academics are fleeing the socialist country for better opportunities abroad.

While numerous American professors have offered praise for Venezuela’s experiment in “Bolivarian revolution,” professors actually living in the country have had to cope with severe economic turmoil created by the country’s policies. According to a report published Thursday by The Associated Presst, professors are leaving their jobs at state-controlled universities in massive numbers, mainly to escape salaries that can be as low as $30 a month (based on the exchange rate of Venezuela’s black market).

The root of the problem is budgetary. Faculty salaries at autonomous public universities (which are state-funded, but control their own affairs) have been frozen since 2010, even though the country has an inflation rate of over 200 percent. As a result, faculty buying power is dropping rapidly on the country’s black market. Those professors who haven’t already left are typically forced to take side jobs that pay more, or have to take sabbaticals to save up money.

The scale of the departures is hard to overstate. At Central University in Caracas, 700 out of 4,000 faculty members have left their posts in the last four years. The academic talent needed to replace them may not be there, as the country has a severe brain drain. An estimated 1.5 million Venezuelans have left the country in the past 16 years, and of those an estimated 90 percent are college graduates, and nearly half have a masters or doctorate.

“We’re going to feel the consequences of this for generations to come,” biology professor Pedro Rodriguez told the AP. Rodriguez himself has had to take a sabbatical to do research at the University of Chicago, and he is considering retiring here full-time rather than going back to his homeland.

Some professors blame the decline on deliberate neglect of traditional universities by Venezuela’s government. Under Hugo Chavez and his successors, the government has focused its attention on cultivating new “revolutionary” universities, such as the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, intended to offer free education for the masses. These schools have been criticized for allegedly offering a politicized curriculum that is lacking in academic rigor.

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