Back to the blackboard

The tertiary education reform bill, which the government was expected to submit to Parliament this summer, will be delayed to allow more time for consultation, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou said yesterday. After a meeting of the Inner Cabinet, Giannakou said the details of the bill would be made public next week and that the draft law would be handed to Parliament by September. The decision is seen by some as a retreat by the ruling conservatives from mounting opposition by academics and students. Sources said some ministers were unhappy about the delay but Giannakou suggested this was not the case. «I emphasize that nobody should worry,» she said. «The government has good stamina and is united in its support for this effort in education and will do all it can so that the exhaustive talks will be fruitful.» However, Giannakou recently suggested that students and academics had already had a chance to voice their opinions about the reforms and that she was poised to submit the bill. Students have taken over 400 of 457 faculties at universities and technical colleges, demanding the withdrawal of reforms including the plan to let private universities operate in Greece. The students also staged a rally in Athens last week which drew about 10,000 demonstrators. Teaching staff and students want more money to be invested in state instead of private education. Giannakou said state education was still the government’s priority. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos defended the decision to delay the bill, saying the extra time would help bring greater support. «As an opposition party and in government New Democracy has repeated emphatically that we want the widest possible consensus on education,» he said. Academics, however, claimed victory in their dispute with the government because the delay in submitting the bill means that it will be debated during full plenary sessions of Parliament rather than reduced summer sessions. Despite the bill’s delay, students and teaching staff said they would still hold a rally at noon tomorrow in central Athens.

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