Students test rector vote

The Technical University of Crete is likely to postpone today its upcoming rector elections due to pressure from protesting students opposing recent reforms to state universities. The expected decision will signal the first university to give in to students who have staged sit-in protests in at least 15 universities across the country. Apart from fearing an interruption in the electoral procedure, authorities are also concerned about violence breaking out among student groups affiliated with different political parties. The University of Thessaly is also thought to be considering the cancellation of its rector elections. Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis played down the sit-ins and risk of more elections being postponed, saying the protests are not as serious as those seen in the past. «The new framework gives universities the ability to decide on their own procedures. They can decide when to hold the elections,» said the minister. «We are in a crucial phase which relates to one side of the new legal framework.» Students are opposing changes to the way universities are run and government plans to introduce private tertiary institutions to the country. The conservatives have introduced the controversial reforms in an attempt to make the tertiary sector more efficient and competitive on an international level. Critics argue that the measures are paving the way for more students to be enrolled at costly private tertiary level institutions. Meanwhile, Ombudsman Giorgos Kaminis said that some groups of students are using blackmail techniques and harming the rights of their peers to education. According to sources, about 270 students decided to move ahead with sit-ins at the Technical University of Crete, which has a total number of 3,000 students. Apart from possible violence breaking out at university grounds this week, authorities will also be on standby on Wednesday and Friday when students are expected to march in central Athens.