Minister appeals for dialogue on universities

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou yesterday appealed to university professors to come forward for an «open dialogue» about proposed government reforms to the higher education system after academics from three major state institutions announced a 24-hour walkout for today in protest at the scheduled changes. «We are open to all proposals, indeed, we invite them, but I think the priority for all of us is that universities continue to function as normal,» Diamantopoulou said. Her comments came in response to the decision to strike today by professors at the National Technical University of Athens, Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University and the University of Ioannina in northwestern Greece. The rectors at those universities and others last month rejected the ministry’s proposals for overhauling the administration of higher education and are drafting their own counterproposals, to be made public at a summit scheduled to take place on December 11. The planned reforms have also riled university students. Leftist students staged a small demonstration in central Athens yesterday, causing traffic disruption. A group of leftist students staged a brief sit-in at the premises of the Athens University of Economics and Business and several student unions were discussing the possibility of staging sit-ins at various faculties to protest the planned reforms. In a related development, Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Panaretos called on universities to submit to the ministry statistics regarding the number of graduates produced by each faculty and the average duration of undergraduates’ studies since the year 2000. Speaking to Skai, Panaretos claimed that an outdated form of administration was chiefly to blame for the failure of Greek universities to achieve international distinction.