Tertiary reform on table

The government will launch a debate in parliament on Wednesday regarding changes to the country’s Constitution that will pave the way for the setting up of non-state universities as opponents prepare their protest action in an issue likely to determine the timing of the next national elections. Reactions to the proposed changes have been mixed with opponents arguing that non-state universities will provide education only to those able to afford it and will also reduce funding poured into the sector. Strike action will kick off on Wednesday with teacher union groups from the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors all walking off the job for 24 hours. The protest has the support of the country’s largest umbrella union group GSEE and the public servants’ union ADEDY. Public servants will launch a work stoppage as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday until the end of the shift. Political commentators believe that the conservative government will be keeping an eye on any protest action evolving after Wednesday to determine the possible political cost of the reform. Even though Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has repeatedly ruled out early elections, government sources have said that the extent of the backlash will determine whether voters will be called to early polls. The government’s current four-year term ends in March 2008. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou told state television NET yesterday that the ban on non-state universities needs to be lifted, as it is in other European Union countries. «What interests me is the state university,» she said, playing down criticism that the move will harm funding for state education. The reform’s supporters have said the changes will make the sector more competitive.

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