Court strikes down ban on for-profit Chilean universities

SANTIAGO – Chile’s constitutional court has struck down a law that would have banned universities operating for profit, dealing a blow to free tuition reforms brought in by former leftwing president Michelle Bachelet.

In a 6-4 decision, the court’s judges on Tuesday sided with a group of private universities that challenged the measure as unconstitutional.

Bachelet, who ended her term early this month, hit back on Twitter to say the ruling “distorts the democratic decision to eliminate profit from higher education.”

During her 2014-2018 rule she had pushed to expand free university tuition in Chile, seeking to discard changes made in 1981 under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship that allowed the private sector to offer higher education for a fee.

The move was popular with Chilean students, and her successor, conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera, had vowed to uphold it.

The court’s verdict followed a protest by a small group of around 20 students outside the constitutional court before being dispersed by police.