University taboo is broken in Parliament

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, gingerly, and opposition leader George Papandreou, with greater force, agreed yesterday on the need to break Greece’s top educational taboo by allowing the operation of non-state universities in the country. During a parliamentary debate on education, Karamanlis spoke of a need to create the legal framework allowing such institutions to open and function, while at the same time urging reforms in the system of entry to state universities. The prime minister set out his positions on non-state universities in the form of rhetorical questions. «Are we going to create the legal framework for the foundation and operation – within the constraints of the constitution and monitored by the state – of non-state, non-profit universities, or will we allow situations to prevail which will threaten to create yet another area of anarchy, as was the case with [private radio stations and television channels]?» he asked. «[Should we] create a clear legal framework that will set out today what is to happen tomorrow, instead of casting around tomorrow to settle outstanding issues that we failed to address today?» Karamanlis stressed that any new, non-state universities would be subject to the same system of controls in place for state-run tertiary education. He also called for reforms to the state university admissions system, arguing that school leavers should no longer be able to secure a place in tertiary education despite getting very low marks. Papandreou effectively backed Karamanlis on tertiary education, describing as «ridiculous» the dilemma of state or non-state universities. «It is the state that will be monitoring these institutions,» he said.