NEWS

Spring session for tertiary reforms

A controversial draft bill on university reform will likely reach lawmakers by late April or early May without delay, Education Ministry sources said yesterday, though the government would not officially give a firm date. «The government will submit the draft bill on education when the (preparations) procedure has been completed during the current parliament,» said alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. Added the Education Ministry sources, «We repeat that what has been stated by the prime minister and the education minister, that the draft bill on changes to universities will be passed through the current parliament.» One of the key issues the draft bill is expected to include is a change to the law on the asylum granted to university premises – a rule which forbids police entering the grounds without permission, even if crimes are taking place there. Recent clashes between anarchists and riot police during anti-government protests have increasingly politicized the reform bill. Television footage shot outside of university grounds last week showed three policemen on fire after anarchists attacked them with Molotov cocktails. Rectors have appealed for calm in the debate on how to change the immunity rule, which was created to help protect free thought and expression at tertiary institutions. The conservative New Democracy government is eager to send a message to the university community that it remains focused on attempts to change the law, sources added. Meanwhile, protests against education reforms continued yesterday as thousands of students and university teaching staff demonstrated in central Athens against a planned education reform allowing private universities to operate in the country. Protesters held banners reading «Down with the reform, free education is a right» and chanted anti-government slogans. Teachers unions and student groups said that some 300 university departments are not operating right now because of student sit-down protests against the reform.