Giannakou open to more ideas on tertiary reforms

Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday welcomed efforts by professors to help shape reforms in the tertiary sector and said that the government is open to new proposals. Giannakou had met earlier with a group representing 1,000 academics who have broken away from their union group, POSDEP, and said that they want to forge a compromise in the months-long reforms battle which has polarized the sector. Many university professors have strongly opposed the proposed changes to the tertiary institutions, including the introduction of non-state universities. The academics have refused to talk with the government on the issue. Giannakou described the ideas put forth yesterday as being valuable and in line with those prepared by the ministry. «The ministry will discuss again all of the proposals which, I must say, stem from the concern academics have for the institutions,» the minister said. «We will accept all proposals. The ministry will examine them all,» she added. The group of academics called on the conservative New Democracy government and the main opposition socialist PASOK party, which also supports the changes, to present specific legislation on the reforms in order to illuminate the issue. «We suggest a series of changes that will contribute to clarifying the political framework of these reforms and their content,» the academics said. «More particularly, we propose the disclosure of the exact time that the draft bill will head to Parliament,» they added. The talks between Giannakou and the academics brought the first bit of optimism into an increasingly tense atmosphere in the higher education community, which is solidly split on changing the state monopoly on tertiary education. Those who support private universities argue that the institutions can help make Greek universities and technical colleges more competitive. But opponents believe that the reforms could harm the quality of public universities and price out poorer students from post-secondary education. The government has also come under fire for not channeling enough funds into education. Educators want the conservative government to pour 5 percent of gross domestic product into education. The amount is now 3.5 percent. POSDEP ends a three-day strike today but has announced more protest activity as of February 15, when lawmakers are scheduled to resume talks on the reforms. Meanwhile, some 300 university faculties have been shut down due to sit-in protests from students who oppose the reforms.

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