Education talks in peril

The standoff between students and the government over tertiary education reforms looks set to intensify after university student groups said after a large protest march in central Athens yesterday that they had no intention of negotiating with the ruling conservatives. More than 10,000 students took part in the rally, which ended in violence as gangs of anarchists threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at banks and cars on Syngrou Avenue and around Syntagma Square. The rally was organized as a display of opposition to the government’s plans to introduce reforms to tertiary education which will include the setting up of private universities. Some students believe this will result in an end to free higher education as state universities will receive increasingly lower public funding. The strong opposition forced the government to admit on Wednesday that it would delay submitting the bill to allow more time for negotiations. However, student groups said yesterday that they were not willing to even discuss the matter. «We know the decisions of the [student] general assemblies and they do not want the bill to be submitted, so we will not discuss the matter any further,» a member of the student coordinating body, Dimitris Fatalis, told Kathimerini. A delegation of 40 students met with Deputy Education Minister Spyros Taliadouros after the protest rally, demanding that no changes be made to higher education. Taliadouros said the bill would be made public next week and that there would be plenty of time for negotiations. Meanwhile, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou, who was the main target of the students’ anger, said she would not resign following her climbdown over the bill. «The dialogue is open. Everyone knows that there has never before been an effort to have a public debate about education,» said Giannakou. «Of course I am up to the task. There are always disagreements, they are at the center of democracy.» Police sources told Kathimerini that they did not make any arrests during the violence at the end of yesterday’s march as officers wanted to avoid a repeat of last week’s scenes, when riot police clashed with students at another rally at which some people accused the police of being too violent. Senior officers said they were worried yesterday that the small number of rioters would try to hide in the larger group of peaceful students.

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