Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and opposition leader Alexis Tsipras could hardly find any common ground in Thursday’s final day of debate over the education reform bill.
The two clashed notably over the introduction of a police force at universities, answerable to the Hellenic Police rather than the institutions themselves, and the requirement that successful candidates for university admission score passing grades in the countrywide examinations they take at the end of their high school senior year.
The bill was expected to pass on the strength of the ruling conservatives’ absolute majority in Parliament.
Tsipras tried to paint Mitsotakis as authoritarian, reactionary and beholden to private interests. He claimed that the passing grade requirement would keep 24,000 students out of the public universities, the majority of them underprivileged, who would then rush to enroll at fee-paying private institutions of higher education. Mitsotakis mocked Tsipras’ assertion, asking him how could he predict the number.
About 77,500 students were admitted to Greece’s public universities, which charge no tuition for undergraduate studies, last year. Greece’s Constitution mandates a public monopoly of higher education and any diplomas issued by private Greek post-secondary institutions are not recognized as university-level.
Mitsotakis said that the police presence would not be repressive but that it would bring freedom from a culture of lawlessness, intimidation and impunity encouraged by Tsipras’ SYRIZA party.