The introduction of stricter criteria for entrance into universities is likely to mean that some 12,000 tertiary positions will be left vacant this academic year, Education Ministry sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Technical colleges (TEIs) in regional parts of the country are likely to be hardest hit by the drop in student numbers. The ministry has upped the minimum score for entrance into tertiary institutions as part of broader reforms being introduced in the education sector. The new rule means that students have to achieve average grades of at least 10 out of 20 to claim a place at university or at a TEI. Sources said yesterday that initial figures show that 38,982 students out of a total of 93,432 did not acquire the minimum grade. This translates into 12,000 places being vacant, the source added. Based on initial results, less popular TEI centers in western Macedonia (Kozani and Florina) and the areas of Mesolongi, Epirus and Kalamata appear to face the biggest threat of a shrinking student population. The Education Ministry will post on school billboards official exam results on Thursday. The stricter criteria for entry into tertiary institutions has become a controversial issue as municipal elections approach on October 15. TEI students are seen by many regional communities as a vital source of income and the government has been under great pressure from local officials to ensure that colleges do not suffer dwindling numbers. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou has been busy in the last few months trying to convince colleges and regional officials that they will not see their student population harmed due to the new rules. She said that students from TEIs will be sent to schools in the regions rather than big cities in the future. Meanwhile, the Education Ministry said that Greeks from abroad applying to enter a local university or TEI will be able to sit for exams between September 11 and 28.