By CIARAN GILES, Associated Press
MADRID (AP) — Rectors from about 50 state-run universities across Spain protested Monday that government spending cuts were choking third-level education and would set back the country's recovery.
The academic leaders each read out a statement simultaneously saying the university system was under threat and cutbacks in research would lead to an "irreparable deterioration" in the system.
Under the 2013 budget, funding for universities has been cut by 18 percent and research funds by 80 percent.
"Without investment in higher education or research and development, the functioning of public universities will become unviable, and without knowledge there will be no progress," the rectors said. "It's not just the universities that lose, we all lose, the whole of society."
Spain is in the throes of its second recession in three years and a 25 percent unemployment rate.
The conservative government's policies have brought labor unions and associations representing nearly every sector of society out onto the streets to protests in recent months.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he has no choice but to implement the measures if the country is to reduce its bloated deficit and avoid a full-blown sovereign bailout.
Earlier on Monday, Spain saw its secondary market borrowing costs — a measure of investor wariness — begin to rise again as market jitters spread following Italian Premier Mario Monti's announcement that he plans to resign.
The rate for Spain's benchmark 10-year bond rose to almost 6 percent in opening trading, although it later edged back to 5.5 percent. The yield had dropped to 5.3 percent last week.
Spain and Italy are among the countries in Europe that investors worry about the most.
"When doubts arise about the stability of a country close to us like Italy, which is also seen as vulnerable, it has an immediate contagion effect on us," Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos told Spanish National Radio.
Spain's borrowing costs rose to unsustainable highs of 7 percent earlier this year but have eased greatly since the European Central Bank pledged in September to buy up a country's short-term bonds if it formally applies for aid.
Pressed as to whether Spain would eventually seek help, De Guindos, said, "The aid that Spain needs is for the uncertainties surrounding the future of the euro to be dispelled." He said this would make Spain's financial situation much easier.
He said that asking for the bailout was not so simple and that it had "a mountain of implications for the Spanish economy and the European Union as a whole."
Spain's has stressed it must know all the conditions before requesting an international aid program for its public finances.
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