Minds meet on education

Parliament is set to witness a rare moment of cross-party cooperation when the debate on education reforms begins tomorrow as PASOK said yesterday that it would back the government’s efforts to allow state universities to face competition. PASOK leader George Papandreou said yesterday that his party’s MPs will vote in favor of Article 16 of the Constitution being reviewed and altered after the next general elections. The article currently states that only the state can be responsible for higher education but the ruling conservatives want to remove this barrier to non-state universities. Papandreou has made it clear that he is in favor of private universities but government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that New Democracy only envisaged the creation of non-profit, non-state institutions – which may, for example, be run by the church or local municipalities – even though a change to the Constitution would allow private colleges to operate. «We were never in favor of private universities,» said Roussopoulos. «We were always in favor of non-state, non-profit universities.» Papandreou said that he would instruct his MPs to vote in favor of a review of Article 16 regardless of the reforms being proposed by New Democracy. He also said that calls from some PASOK MPs not to support the government’s initiative would not have any effect on his stance. Some students and teachers are planning to hold protests from today to voice their opposition to the government’s planned tertiary reforms. Papandreou said that the protests were taking place because the ruling conservatives had undermined state education. He said that he would be making public his plans for the education system over the next few months. Roussoupoulos suggested that the two main parties were not far apart on their views on education reforms and urged Papandreou to back the government. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has placed great emphasis on these education reforms and some think he may call early elections if opposition against them mounts.

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