Universities at a standstill

University students and teachers staged another rally in central Athens against the government’s higher education reforms as rectors worried that the chronic protests could destroy what remains of the academic year. Up to 8,000 people participated in the march, which led to protesters clashing with riot police outside Parliament and the injury of at least three students. The continuing protests against the planned reforms has created confusion about whether university students will be able to complete their courses this semester, especially since 330 departments have been locked down by protesting students since the start of the year. «Things are getting increasingly difficult as long as this situation drags on and there does not seem to be a way out,» said the rector of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, Anastassios Manthos. «The teaching process has effectively been annulled but each department will have to decide independently whether the semester will be canceled.» Due to the protests, lecturers have only been able to teach five of the 13 weeks of material for some courses. «We are waiting for the end of the protest action to decide how we can complete the courses,» the rector of the National Technical University of Athens, Constantinos Moutzouris, told Kathimerini. Student protests have affected 13 of 20 universities in the country. Two in three departments at Athens University – one of the most disrupted – have been shut down by rallying students. There is also concern that the frequent protest marches in central Athens are damaging the livelihoods of many of the city’s store owners. According to a study carried out on behalf of the traders’ association, the frequent rallies which have taken place since October have cost shop owners more than -400 million in lost earnings. It is estimated that money spent at shops in the city center on days when there are protest marches is some 75 percent lower than on a normal business day.