Backlash over reforms for universities

University teaching staff demanded the resignation of Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday as violent clashes in central Athens during a student rally led to more than 40 people being detained and 14 others being injured. The Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) called for the minister to step down over the government’s refusal to reconsider its reforms for tertiary education. POSDEP claimed yesterday’s violence was provoked by riot police. «Mrs Giannakou cannot continue after what happened today,» POSDEP General Secretary Yiannis Maistros told Kathimerini. «Students were hit without provocation during a peaceful march.» The march, attended by some 10,000 people, had been organized by left-wing student groups which are unhappy with the reforms being planned by the ruling conservatives, especially their intention to allow private universities to operate in Greece. They want more money invested in public education. POSDEP said that 219 university departments around the country and 127 departments at technical colleges had been taken over by protesting students. The standoff is likely to lead to this summer’s exams being postponed. The government, which says it has given students and teaching staff every chance to have their say, insists it will not back down. «The government has a responsibility to make law,» said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. «The tertiary education bill will be given for consultation and when that is over it will be submitted [to Parliament].» Antonaros said the protests were carried out by small groups. The violence that followed yesterday’s rally led to 10 riot police officers being taken to hospital and another four people being injured. Some 2,000 students later marched toward police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue, demanding the release of the youths who had been detained during the disturbances.

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