Premises of Inclusive Access and Success of Roma People in the Romanian Higher Education

Diana-Maria Cismaru, Cristina Fiţ and Delia Gologan

National Context

The data used in this article derive from an impact study regarding the equity policy already put in place by the Romanian national institutions, in order to evaluate their real impact and the level of reaching their pre-set objectives. The study is part of the project coordinated by UEFISCDI and co-funded by the European Structural Funds (POSDRU) entitled “Internationalization, equity and university management for a more qualitative Higher Education system” (IEMU). The main objective of the project is to raise the quality of the Romanian Higher Education system by developing the public policies in the international and equity dimensions of education, as well as the management level for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). This first part of the article provides a national overview of the Roma population status, in terms of history, living conditions, forms of discrimination, as well as the specific positive measures undertaken by the Romanian Government or other public authorities aiming to improve their situation. All these constitute the framework for discussing the study findings and the impact of the public policies that were implemented so far.

Roma People in Statistics

Roma people are an officially recognized ethnic minority in Romania. According to the population census of 2002 almost 2.5 % of Romania's population (535,140 people) is Roma; by 2011 this was estimated to have increased to approximatively

3.2 %.[1] This data however cover only to the citizens with an official ID declaring

their ethnicity. Official data do not reveal the actual size of Roma population, since it is not mandatory to declare one's ethnicity. According to the EU Communication “An EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020” and based on the European Council data, the European Commission estimated the Roma population at 8.32 % from Romania's overall population.

The Roma people are of Indian origin and they arrived in Romania during the 14th century as slaves and treated ever since as having an inferior social status. They were granted freedom and the right to become land owners in 1864; however, they kept their nomadic characteristic, rarely settling down in fixed abodes. During World War II many of them were deported, but this oppression stopped during the communist period when, for the first time, they were allowed to hold jobs in the industry and the army. The long period of their marginalization is now visible and reflects in their poor living conditions. In 1997, 79 % of Roma were facing severe poverty, 44 % of Roma men and 59 % of Roma women were illiterate, while 9 % of them possessed neither an ID, nor a birth certificate.[2]

The general situation of Roma people is characterized by a low socio-economic status, poor living conditions, low levels of professional qualifications and a high level of unemployment. Only 53 % of Roma men and 23 % of Roma women are paid for their work in the formal economy, but about one third receive daily wages in the informal sector (also know as “the black market”). Thus, practically one third of Roma workers do not have a steady work place and revenue, due in part to low educational qualifications (Preda 2009, p. 228). Many Roma people live in insalubrious conditions, without access to running water or electricity: 15 % of Roma people do not have electricity in their households, compared with only 2 % of the rest of the Romanian population (idem).

According to official statistics, the counties with the greatest percentages of self-declared Roma people are: Mureş (7.0 %), Călăraşi (5.6 %), Bihor (5.0), Dolj (4.3 %), Sibiu (4.2 %) and Arad (3.9 %) (Bennett 2010, p. 2).

During the negotiation period preceding the adhesion of Romania to the EU, the Roma attracted the attention of European institutions due to the prospect of mass emigration into other EU states under the free movement of labour at European level. As a result, these institutions began to pressure the Romanian Government to take action on the Roma situation. Therefore, in 1998 the National Office for Roma was founded and it started working on the first strategy addressing the needs of Roma people.

  • [1] Data regarding the evolution of the ethnic communities are available online, in Romanian, at the following link: unde-sunt-cei-mai-putini-romani-12-6-din-populatia-totala.html; last accessed: September 2014
  • [2] Document available online in Romanian, full-version at the following link: docs/docs/etnomobilitate/Intregul_volum.pdf; last accessed: September 2014
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