Controversial legislation that is ostensibly aimed at modernizing the higher education system but which has been widely criticized for reverting to outdated teaching models and opening the back door to hirings was approved in Parliament on Tuesday following a tense debate in the House.
The bill passed with 147 votes in favor and 100 against following several months of protests by teachers, students and parents opposed to its provisions.
Among other things, the bill formalizes Education Minister Costas Gavroglou’s plans to merge Greek technical colleges (TEI) with universities and to create new polytechnics – an initiative that has been vehemently opposed by several higher education institutions, most recently the prestigious National Technical University of Athens.
The initiative is widely seen as a bid by the leftist government to gain popularity in the runup to elections this year by appointing new academic staff.
The legislation also introduces changes to the curriculum in the final year of high school and to university entrance exams which fueled months of angry protests in Athens by teachers and students. Critics complain that the changes will put additional pressure on pupils and create a system that discourages critical thought.
Gavroglou also came under fire on Tuesday for failing to explain why he added a slew of last-minute amendments to the bill – all from MPs of leftist SYRIZA – before the vote on Tuesday.
In comments to Kathimerini, Loukas Vlachos, a physics professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, said the bill was a blow to the Greek higher education system. “The government is prepared to destroy education, the key driver of the country’s cultural and economic growth.”