Education debate opens

A much-debated draft law on education reform, foreseeing greater self-sufficiency for state universities and offering students a larger time frame in which to complete their courses, was unveiled by the government yesterday. But the bill was rejected by protesting university students and widely criticized by academics for watering down earlier proposals. The most significant changes proposed by the bill include boosting universities’ financial autonomy, establishing internal regulations for their operation and offering students extended deadlines for course completion. Students who have reached the end of their courses without completing their studies will have an extra five years to complete their studies, while the duration of all courses will be increased by 50 percent. However, another proposal related to university immunity, a law forbidding police from entering university grounds unless invited, appears to restrict student influence. The bill suggests that decisions to lift university immunity be made by the council of deans rather than the university’s governing council, which includes students. Students, who have been staging university sit-ins for weeks, demanded that the bill be withdrawn. Nevertheless, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou pressed for a new debate on education. «This dialogue is open to all. But everyone has his responsibilities. There is no such thing as an endless dialogue,» she said. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos struck a conciliatory note. «On the basis of this draft law, the government will seek the greatest possible consensus from all the parties involved,» he said. But PASOK’s spokesperson Milena Apostolaki dismissed the bill as «an impressive piece of nothing.» The bill also received widespread criticism from academics. Athens University Rector Georgios Babiniotis said, «The bill increases the potential for bureaucratic meddling on the part of the (Education) Ministry in university affairs.»

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