University reform row heating up

A dispute between Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and university academics over reforms to the higher education sector, which were voted through Parliament last month, peaked on Wednesday with the minister suggesting that academics were hiding behind protesting students who are staging faculty sitins.

?They should take matters into their own hands,? Diamantopoulou said of the academics. ?When there are rectors that say students can decide when they will sit exams and when academics postpone exams to allow students to plan protest action, it is clear why the law was necessary and why the reforms drew a consensus,? the minister said, referring to the two opposition parties that backed the reforms, center-right New Democracy and rightwing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Diamantopoulou also suggested that the closed university faculties were being tolerated by some academics. ?But we can?t have universities closed and everyone getting paid,? she said.

The university rectors? council responded by accusing the minister of resorting to offensive tactics. ?There have been quite enough insults against universities and rectors. We ask, for the good of the education sector, that they stop.?

Students are to stage rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki at midday on Thursday in protest at the new law, which paves the way for independent evaluations of university academics, sets restrictions on the length of time students have to complete degrees and abolishes university asylum – a ban on the presence of police on university grounds.

Several faculties remained under occupation by protesting students on Wednesday.