NEWS

A softer tertiary bill?

Lawmakers are expected to vote on controversial tertiary education reforms after Easter this April, but the draft bill will likely be watered down to pacify those critics who have strongly – and sometimes violently – opposed the proposed changes, Education Ministry sources said yesterday. Proposed changes will include allowing tertiary institutions to operate with more autonomy and dealing with so-called «perennial students,» who have been in school for years without progressing in their studies. University students who have been registered on a course will be given five years from the time the law is passed to finish before being wiped off the registry, the ministry sources said. The draft law is also likely to introduce a minor change to the immunity rule for university grounds. This rule now forbids police from setting foot on university land even if they have evidence of criminal activity there. Only a meeting of the deans, who must decide to allow the police to enter the ground, can overturn this restriction – an action which is hardly ever taken. The draft bill is expected to give prosecutors a say in this process, something which could help keep anarchists from exploiting the law for violent demonstrations. The rule was designed to protect free expression in universities. Left-wing student groups have said that they will not accept the reforms and will meet on Monday to decide on their next round of protest action. University teachers have also warned that they are preparing for more strikes. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the timing of the bill’s submission to Parliament will allow ample time for public debate on the reforms. Sources said that the New Democracy government is eager to secure the consent of opposition parties on the tertiary reforms, especially since last year’s education reforms also displeased many in the sector. The conservative government refused to give a steep pay rise to primary school teachers – a move which prompted weeks of strikes by educators – and also toughened the criteria for entry into technical colleges.