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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-20

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Karamanlis: 'Education reforms backed by citizens'; Minister details proposals
  • [02] Papandreou dismisses education bill
  • [03] Leftist opposition slams education draft law

  • [01] Karamanlis: 'Education reforms backed by citizens'; Minister details proposals

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, on Tuesday unveiled and quickly approved the education ministry's long-awaited draft bill for higher education reforms, outlining the exact changes the Karamanlis government hopes will rejuvenate Greece's university system.

    In brief televised comments immediately afterwards, Karamanlis said the four primary axes envisioned, among others, encourage universities' autonomy and the independent management of their finances; promote their wider role in society; upgrade degrees bestowed by Greek higher education institutions and, especially, curtail political parties' influence in rectors' elections by mandating a vote by all registered students.

    &quot;There are no margins for deadlock and stagnation. Citizens, young people and their families want changes,&quot; he stressed, adding: &quot;Now is the time for decisions. Mature reforms for a mature society. We have exhausted all margins for dialogue.&quot;

    In touching on the heated opposition to the prospects of such reforms, spearheaded primarily by the university professors' union (POSDEP) and the leftist opposition, Karamanlis noted that &quot;certain minority opinions are reacting to change.&quot;

    &quot;The goal is to upgrade state universities, for Greek degrees to become more prestigious and for degree-holders to find employment corresponding to their qualifications,&quot; the premier added.

    In terms of the contentious university asylum regime, Karamanlis said that not only was the asylum law &quot;not being abolished, but instead it is being upgraded to safeguard the free exchange of ideas, something that is today being impeded by unrestrained violence.&quot;

    In addressing her counterparts at the Inner Cabinet meeting, Yiannakou outlined the draft bill's provisions.

    In terms of the Constitutional revision process and the government's stated intent to eventually revise Article XVI in order to allow the establishment and operation of recognised non-state universities in the country, Parliament is slated to hold its first vote on Thursday on which relevant articles will be eligible for revision by the Parliament plenum to arise from the next general elections, which will be a revisionary Parliament. A second vote is scheduled to come at the end of March.

    Education minister details draft bill

    In a subsequent wide-ranging press conference, Yiannakou detailed the provisions of the draft bill first outlined by Karamanlis, as well as fielding press questions during a conference carried live by the state-run broadcaster and other television stations.

    In reply to a bevy of questions regarding the university asylum regime - a taboo subject for much of the opposition - Yiannakou said the draft bill envisions that each university's council of rectors -- or the administrative council at the tertiary Technical Educational Institutes (TEIs) -- will be responsible for deciding when the need arises to lift the asylum, a decision that will also necessitate the presence of a judicial officer.

    &quot;Academic asylum exists to serve the freedom of (exchange of) ideas and not to facilitate criminal behaviour. The state is creating flexible conditions so that university officials have the responsibility to autonomously protect the real meaning of asylum and the students who want to learn without hindrance, as well as state university campuses, which are the property of the Greek people,&quot; Yiannakou emphasised.

    She also noted that it was up to university boards themselves to define what areas of their campuses will enjoy asylum status, which at present expressly forbids the presence of law enforcement personnel and uniformed military officers in higher education facilities.

    Regarding the controversial issue of &quot;eternal undergraduates&quot;, she said an eight-year ceiling is proposed for students to finish four-year degree programmes, with at another two semesters possibly granted if extenuating circumstances arise. She said this measure is expected to come into effect for new admissions during the fall semester (September), whereas undergraduates can suspend their studies -- and by extension, their collegiate status - and retain the right of re-admission into the same programme.

    Selection of a school's rector and its two vice-rectors, according to Yiannakou, is expected to be realised via election by the entire registered student body and not by representatives of political party-affiliated student groups, as is the case now.

    The education minister, a psychiatrist by training, said the proposed charges in rectors' elections even comes amid opposition by the ruling New Democracy party's own affiliated students' group, DAP, which regularly wins the majority of seats in student elections at most tertiary institutes around the country, as she said.

    Other high-profile proposals include:

  • Election and appointment of tenured university researchers exclusively by the school's organs, with the education ministry limited to validating the legality of the relevant appointments.

  • Allocation of at least one free textbook per lesson, and the obligatory provision, by professors/lecturers, of a bibliography and syllabus for each lesson.

  • Availability of financial aid to eligible students via interest-free loans as well as scholarships in return for on-campus employment.

  • Universities' obligation to list detailed information regarding academic programmes, administrative issues and their finances on dedicated websites.

  • Buttressing tertiary education institutions' financial and administrative autonomy with the tabling of four-year development plans outlining their academic, research and organisational needs over the period.

    In response to other questions, Yiannakou dismissed the possibility that the heated issue of education reform will lead to early elections, saying merely that the &quot;government is behaving institutionally, in contrast to other governments we witnessed in the past. The government has no reason to call early elections over this matter&quot;.

    Debate on the draft bill will begin next week in Parliament's education affairs committee.

    Caption: ANA-MPA photo of Premier Costas Karamanlis.

    [02] Papandreou dismisses education bill

    Main opposition leader George Papandreou dismissed a draft framework bill for higher education reform unveiled by the government on Tuesday as a "communications gimmick" with which to end its term in office.

    The government's proposals lacked daring and barely addressed the serious problems faced by Greek universities and the education system, the head of PASOK stressed.

    "The government has proved that on this important issue, also, it has nothing to offer. PASOK is the guarantor of a progressive and substantial proposal for changing state education," he added.

    Responding to statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Papandreou also accused the government of not exploiting the preceding months of dialogue to achieve the greatest possible consensus, stressing that he would have been ready to contribute "if the government had dared".

    PASOK's leader criticised the measures outlined on Tuesday by Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou as "sloppy and fragmentary" and said that measures to boost university autonomy, in particular, did not go far enough and continued a logic of state control.

    Commenting on measures for rectors' elections proposed by the government, he said there was "no serious plan" for the reorganisation of universities, which would lead to their domination by party politics and encourage jobbery in relations between teachers and students.

    Selection of a school's rector and its two vice-rectors, according to Yiannakou, is expected to be realised via election by the entire registered student body and not by representatives of political party-affiliated student groups, as is the case now.

    The main opposition leader also debunked other sections of the proposed framework law as inadequate and unable to achieve the aims in view, including a system for scholarships and low-cost loans for students, measures to restrict so-called 'eternal students' that extended undergraduate studies into decades, university asylum and others.

    Papandreou, who had earlier chaired a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary Council, finally accused the government of downgrading and under funding state universities, while handling education issues autocratically and by imposing partisanship.

    [03] Leftist opposition slams education draft law

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday joined the chorus of political opposition to the government's draft bill for reforming higher education, unveiled earlier the same day.

    "The framework law for tertiary education that the government has, once again, submitted must be rejected," KKE political bureau member Dimitris Arvanitakis said.

    The draft framework law was unanimously approved during an inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday. The government announced that the draft bill, which is due to be tabled in Parliament for processing under normal Parliamentary proceedings, represents its final proposals for higher education reform.

    Commenting on a regime of four-year individual agreements for educational institutes that are introduced under the government's framework law, Arvanitakis said these gave an official stamp to the efforts of 'big capital' to fully control study courses and university research.

    "This is pure privatisation and a downgrading of universities. It strives to deal a critical blow to university asylum, the student movement as well as free trade union and political action," Arvanitakis added.

    Alavanos

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) president Alekos Alavanos was the first party leader on Tuesday to express opposition to the education ministry's unveiled draft bill on higher education reform, accusing the government of "operating under a syndrome of vengeance and defeat".

    He also called on the Karamanlis government "not to proceed with the tabling of the bill and to listen to the voice of reason".

    Alavanos said the government move was "lighting a new fire within universities" when these were on the verge of re-opening, after the momentum, as he said, of recent street protests by college students and academics opposed to a revision of Article 16 of the Constitution.

    Alavanos, who is also a vociferous opponent of revising Article 16 and of plans to allow non-state universities to be established in Greece, warned that the government would face strenuous opposition if it chose a "path of confrontation".

    "It will find it (opposition) everywhere; inside universities, in society and on the streets; the new framework law will have the same fate as Article 16," he said, in referring to main opposition PASOK party's decision earlier in the month to walk out of Parliament debate on constitutional revision.

    Caption: A file photo of a recent protest, Feb. 15, 2007, against the government's intent to table a higher education draft bill. ANA-MPA / P. Saitas.


    Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
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