Start of exams as turmoil continues

Many of the 94,600 senior high school students who will try to gain a university place this summer begin their exams today as Greece’s tertiary education sector gradually grinds to a standstill due a dispute over reforms. The Technical University of Crete and the University of Thessaly yesterday confirmed their decisions not to proceed with elections for rectors because of sit-in protests in most of their departments by students opposed to the government’s plans to change the way the institutions are run. After briefing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday, Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis told journalists that all sides in the dispute would have to reassess their positions but stopped short of suggesting action would be taken against the protesting students. «It has always been a demand of the academic and student communities that universities become more autonomous, which the reforms have helped become reality,» said Stylianidis. «Now, the rectors, the lecturers, the student groups and the parties must assume their responsibilities.» The minister went on to accuse leftist students of undermining state universities. The current unrest does not seem to bode well for a new influx of high school students who are preparing to compete for one of 70,701 university places that will be up for grabs this summer. The exam period runs until June 27 and the final results will be published toward the end of August.