‘Yes’ to university reform

With university students about to end their occupation of university faculties across Greece, public opinion appears to favor education reform but is to a large extent unaware of the specific reform proposals put on the table by the government, an opinion survey shows. The survey, conducted by research firm VPRC for Kathimerini and Skai radio and TV station, shows that only 25 percent are satisfied with the way Greek universities operate. On the other hand, 50 percent say they oppose the reform package presented by the government, although 53 percent are unaware of its specific proposals. This contradiction is even more evident among those aged 18-24, 74 percent of whom oppose the reforms, while 39 percent admit ignorance of the actual proposals. On the two government proposals that have sparked the current wave of sit-ins and demonstrations (the founding of private-funded, non-profit higher education institutions and the imposition of time limits on matriculation) public opinion is in favor: 59 percent are in favor of private-funded universities while 31 percent are against and 70 percent favor time limits. A majority of students (51 percent) also favors time limits. Moreover, 67 percent consider that the number of university students is excessive. Respondents were ambivalent on student sit-ins. While 48 percent supported them, 55 percent say that they must not continue versus 36 percent who support continued sit-ins. Only 10 percent consider that the government should submit the draft reform bill immediately, versus 84 percent who urge it to engage in dialogue. This shows that, while many of its reform proposals are welcomed, the government lost the communications game by appearing too rigid. Students will stage a final demonstration today outside Parliament at 10.30 a.m. Yesterday, about 400 gathered near the site of a meeting of education ministers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states and dispersed after a few hours. Many more were supposed to join them and had hired buses for the purpose but the buses never showed up. The students accused the police of intimidating the bus owners.

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