Nicaragua's two principal universities, the Central American University (Universidad de Centroamérica--UCA) and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua--UNAN), are viewed as strongholds of Sandinista thought and sympathy, but are not considered influential in the political system. In 1992 Xavier Gorostiaga, a well-known proSandinista economist and a Jesuit priest, was the rector of the UCA, a Jesuit-run and church-financed institution. Alejandro Serrano Caldera, who served the Sandinista government as president of the Supreme Court and Nicaraguan ambassador to the United Nations, was the rector of the state-financed UNAN in 1992. Both are well-known intellectuals who are viewed as bringing academic credibility and strength to the universities.
The universities have actively sought to protect their own interests. During the transition period, the country's four state and two private universities were granted academic, financial, and administrative autonomy by the outgoing Sandinista legislature through the University Autonomy Law. The universities were also given the right to elect their own rectors, faculty council, and other governing bodies. Students, faculties, and administrators protested the Chamorro government's attempts in May 1990 to have the National Assembly suspend the electoral agreements in order to provide time for their review. The government backtracked, and the National Assembly eventually passed a law containing only minor reforms. University protests were not effective against the Chamorro government budget cuts for the universities, which passed the National Assembly in December 1991 with Sandinista support.
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