Bill allows closure of universities to cut spending

A bill tabled in Parliament on Monday paves the way for the government to close down dozens of universities if it chooses to reduce public spending in this manner.

A parliamentary committee will meet Tuesday to debate the draft law, which is expected to pass through Parliament soon. According to the wording of the bill, universities can be shut down ?when this is in agreement with the needs of the national economy.?

?It is impossible for a country [like Greece] with a population of 11 million people to afford about 40 universities when other countries, such as Israel, have just seven or eight,? Education Minister Costas Arvanitopoulos told Mega TV.

He did not unveil any specific plans for the closing down of institutions.

The bill also introduces some changes to the administration of universities. This has caused some controversy as it reverses a number of changes made last year, when a draft law introduced by then-Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou received overwhelming parliamentary support.

The new law would allow rectors to stay in place with full decision-making powers until August 2014, rather than have to give up their position by the end of this August. The bill foresees new university councils being formed by the end of this year but consisting of existing employees at the institutions who are nominated by the rector, rather than former academics appointed by the government.

Some see the new bill as a major concession to university staff and student unionists who had opposed Diamantopoulou?s law. She said that the law was being changed because ?some violent minorities and public servants looking after their own interests do not want to implement it.?

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