Private education row rekindled

Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis yesterday stood by his comments that the unhindered operation of private universities would shake things up at state institutions, despite an onslaught from opposition politicians. Speaking on Thursday, Stylianidis said that a planned change to Article 16 of the Constitution, which only allows state institutions to operate in the tertiary education sector, would be «a shock that energizes the healthy strengths of the state university.» This was seen by some as a move by the government to throw its weight behind private education, at the expense of the state sector. PASOK MP Anna Diamantopoulou, who is responsible for education matters, said that the government should be focusing on «a bold and complete reform of public universities that will be a platform for development.» «A government and a minister are dangerous when they cannot and will not suggest solutions, when they are unable to act and consider the only solution to the tertiary education problem, the shock that the free operation of non-state universities will create,» she added. In its previous term in office, the government had proposed a change to Article 16 but its plans were met by opposition from the other political parties and student groups, who held weekly protests in Athens. The current Parliament has the ability to review the Constitution but the government has not yet made it clear if it will make a bid to change the law to allow private universities. Stylianidis, however, defended the idea of reforming the legislation on tertiary education. «A lot of people are rushing to distort our view on the review of Article 16 to create the false and demagogic view that anyone supporting the freeing of the sector is devaluing state universities,» he said. «I would turn this thought on its head and say that anyone in favor of freeing up the sector is showing faith in public universities… faith that they can do their jobs so well that that they can measure up to international competition.»