College degree protests begin

University students protesting the government’s plans to grant full recognition to degrees obtained from private colleges, in line with European Union legislation, are to stage their first demonstration in Athens today. The rally, which is to begin outside the entrance to Athens University, will also be attended by students from technical colleges, university professors and secondary school teachers who are staging a work stoppage to express solidarity with the students. «We will not agree to any procedure that would arbitrarily equate the professional rights that emanate from our degrees with certificates of questionable origin,» said a student from the union affiliated with ruling New Democracy. It is believed that today’s protest will be the first in a series of rallies by students opposing the controversial reforms. Student union representatives are expected to discuss subsequent action over the next few days. It is likely that sit-ins will be staged at university faculties. Despite the clear dissatisfaction in the university community, Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis yesterday stood his ground, saying that the proposed reforms would be good for Greece’s education sector. He remarked: «What has happened up until now? Every profiteer could open up a street kiosk and give out degree certificates, with no regard for education services, simply by submitting the relevant documents to the tax office.» According to Stylianidis, allowing the current law to remain unchanged would allow thousands of «fortune-seeking investors to offer diplomas that could lead to professional recognition.» Professional groups and unions have threatened to mount a legal challenge against the EU ruling being contested by the students. Many of these groups question the quality of education at private colleges.