Education Minister Petros Efthymiou yesterday repeated his, so far, fruitless appeal to striking university faculty members to return to work as most of the country’s students are at risk of losing the semester. But academic staff threatened to step up their protest, which started in late May. «The efforts of students and their families should not go to waste because we are saying that any dialogue on salary scales will not begin before 2003,» Efthymiou said after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Exams were to have started in early June in most departments. The general secretary of the federation of faculty associations, Evgenia Bournova, told Kathimerini yesterday that university staff members would step up their action. Many faculty members are now threatening to strike during the September exams as well, unless the government grants them 12-percent salary increases and better pension and retirement deals. The only universities now functioning are those of Thessaloniki and Thrace, the Athens University of Business and Economics and the Technical University of Crete.