Students up the ante with sitins

Hundreds of students took to the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki Thursday to protest a controversial new law overhauling the higher education sector as sitins at university faculties grew.

The demonstrations were mostly peaceful and not large by Greek standards but many students have yet to return from extended summer vacation and unions have pledged to organize larger rallies later in the fall.

Only one incident was reported, close to the main premises of Athens University, when unidentified protesters reportedly attacked a police officer as he was getting into his car. The assailants used stones to smash the windows of the vehicle before fleeing according to police, who said the officer involved suffered minor injuries.

More of a nuisance to authorities was the occupation of dozens of university faculties with student unions putting the number of sitins at between 150 and 200.

The action has driven a rift between Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and university academics who are being blamed for tolerating the protests.

On Friday, rectors are due to meet in a bid to formulate a common position of the reforms. Many academics are vehemently opposed to the new law, arguing that it will subject state institutions to excessive external interference. They are expected to stick to that position today, championing the ?open university.?

The new law, voted through Parliament last week, 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.

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