The government will speed up the professional recognition of all graduates from technical colleges (TEIs) as part of the Education Ministry’s reforms, officials said yesterday. The state does not recognize some diplomas from 40 TEI departments, which makes it hard for those graduates to get jobs, sources said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Education Minister Marietta Giannakou met with the heads of 15 TEIs to address the problems facing the colleges. «The prime minister expressed his view that we need to push ahead with professional rights and there is movement on behalf of the Education Ministry in this direction,» said Stelios Ioannidis, president of the Thessaloniki TEI. Officials said the government had recently recognized diplomas from departments training workers for the timber and furniture fields and will also soon give the nod to nine business schools. The New Democracy government has made tertiary education reform a top priority despite widespread opposition from students and university deans. Recent data showed some TEI departments, particularly those outside of major urban areas, have very low graduation rates and are out of touch with workplace developments. Critics of the tertiary education reform say it could harm some colleges. For instance, they say, imposing stricter grade requirements for entry into TEIs could starve some colleges of students. The TEI heads have agreed to let the Education Ministry assess their departments, on one condition: If the department gets bad marks, its leaders will get the chance to improve conditions. «Under no circumstances will [the TEI branches] be shut down,» Ioannidis said. But Giannakou reiterated yesterday that the government has no intention of closing down the branches. «We will regulate issues that relate to the merger of (TEI) departments, by creating in their place other attractive departments, as part of a complete strategy for both TEIs and universities,» she said.