Regional authorities said yesterday that they hope an upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will help address the economic void that will be left by more than 18,000 vacancies for students at tertiary institutions across Greece. According to data released by the Education Ministry on Thursday, 18,768 positions in technical colleges (TEIs) and universities will go unfilled this year after the enforcement of new, stricter entry criteria. The new rule means that students have to achieve average grades of at least 10 out of 20 to claim a place at a university or at TEI. Paris Koukoulopoulos, president of Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), told Kathimerini that the introduction of the grade limit and the vacancies created by it has divided Greek cities into three categories, depending how badly the economy will be affected. In cities such as Larissa and Iraklion, the impact will be minimal, and towns such as Kozani and Kalamata can offset the loss through local growth, Koukoulopoulos said. But towns such as Florina and Arta will suffer from the lack of students because TEIs help power the local economy, he said. Regional authorities have been pressuring the government ahead of the October 15 municipal elections on the issue as students are considered to offer a lifeline for local economies. KEDKE is scheduled to meet with Karamanlis ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair next month. The government appears to be firmly pushing ahead with its education reforms, which New Democracy leaders say will improve the efficiency of the tertiary sector. Meanwhile, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday called on students who did not matriculate this year to try again next year. «I am certain that students who make continued and systematic attempts during their studies can contribute to the qualitative upgrade of tertiary institutions,» she said. Of the nearly 120,000 university candidates who sat for exams in June, 64,392 passed.