Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday rejected calls from regional authorities to slow down the introduction stricter entrance criteria for tertiary institutions in order to fill some of the 18,000 unfilled slots at technical colleges (TEIs). The minister admitted the new minimum entrance requirements might cause some economic shocks in regional Greece but insisted that the changes must stand. «I recognize the small (economic) dip and the problems that may be created in the regions. The government cannot diverge from what was set out in law last year,» the minister said. The government is likely to merge some unpopular TEI department and decentralize other faculties in a bid to redistribute the number of students, sources said. The Education Ministry introduced a new rule last year that students must achieve average grades of at least 10 out of 20 to claim a spot at a university or TEI. The entrance requirement has resulted in 18,768 vacant positions in the tertiary sector this year. Most of these unfilled slots are in regional TEIs, which help power the economies of small communities. Paris Koukoulopoulos, president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), accused the government of reacting slowly to a problem which had been brewing for more than a year. In protest at the measure, KEDKE said it will shut down municipal offices and public transport on the opening day of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on September 8.