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Romania Table of Contents


Higher Education

Despite remarkable expansion in education at the primary level and increased numbers of secondary school graduates, the transition to mass higher education did not occur. Competition for entry to universities and other institutions of higher learning was extremely intense, and the procedures for admission were strict and complicated. Despite an impressive network of universities, technical colleges, academies, and conservatories, only 8 percent of those eligible for higher education were permitted to enroll. The central government allocated slots based on predicted demand for given occupations.

Stringent entrance exams eliminated a large number of applicants. Some 90 percent of freshmen entering one university department had private tutoring for eight years before taking the tests. Because the exams were tailored to the course of study, as early as the fifth grade students began planning their specializations, so that they could devote the last four years of elementary school and four years of high school to the subjects in which they would be tested. Both high school teachers and university professors confirmed that it was next to impossible to enter the university without private tutoring.

The cost of a private tutor was prohibitive for many workers and peasant families, and rural-urban differences in education exacerbated their difficulties. A point system that discriminated in the favor of workers and peasants was apparently not enough to compensate for poorer preparation. Such students had less chance of getting into universities and even when admitted were more likely to drop out. Most of the 20 percent of students dropping out after the first year were of peasant or working-class backgrounds.

Although the state provided generous financial support ranging from low-cost housing and meals, free tuition, and book subsidies to monthly stipends, higher education was not free of charge. For those students who received financial aid, the amount depended on factors such as social background and specialization. Some students were sponsored by a particular industrial enterprise, for whom they pledged to work for a certain amount of time after completing their studies.

Data as of July 1989