ND hopes bill on education makes grade

In a move that may define its term in office, the conservative government yesterday tabled in Parliament its draft law on university reforms, which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said would give state-funded institutions greater autonomy. «It is decision time,» said Karamanlis. «Citizens are demanding that the changes, which are bold and sensible, move forward. The conditions are ripe for these reforms.» Education Minister Marietta Giannakou unveiled the bill earlier at an Inner Cabinet meeting. The proposed law aims to give universities greater independence in forming their budgets and in running their affairs. They will, however, be forced to commit to four-year agreements to measure their academic progress. The bill also puts a cap on the number of years students have to complete their degrees while limiting the number of transfers from regional to urban universities. «Greek universities cannot afford to be left behind,» said the prime minister. «A new page, a new attitude,» said Giannakou as she presented the bill at a press conference. A key element of the draft law is that it allows the university’s council of deans to lift the asylum which prevents police from entering campuses. The new rules will prevent students from having any influence over the decision. Karamanlis said that more scholarships and interest-free loans would be made available to help students from poor families. The proposals failed to impress some student and teachers’ groups who continued their protests against the government’s reforms, which will likely culminate with an amendment to the Constitution that will permit private universities to operate in Greece. Protesters believe this will undermine free public education. Giannakou said she tried to include these groups in the dialogue to shape the draft law but many had chosen not to take part in the discussion. PASOK leader George Papandreou accused New Democracy of engaging in empty rhetoric. «This is a public relations trick in the field of education with which the government is ending its tenure,» said Papandreou, who labeled the bill as being «makeshift.»