GREECE: Opposition to higher education reform grows

Greece's largest university has called for the government's consultation paper on reform to be rejected on the grounds that its proposals would add to higher education's problems rather than solve them. At another institution, staff held a two-day strike against the proposed reforms.

The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is numerically the largest higher education institution in the country. A resolution passed unanimously by its senate committee at the end of October "rejects the education ministry's consultation paper on reforms because not only it does not answer any of the major problems of higher education but on the contrary it exacerbates them to a dangerous degree".

The committee claimed the consultation document was unconstitutional because it questioned the current management structure and the financing of the universities; violated basic academic freedoms such as the independence and character of the institutions; and breached the responsibility of the state to finance universities.

This year the university's budget was reduced by 30% and its public investment budget by 50%.

At the smaller University of the Aegean, teachers and staff went on strike for two days in protest against the reforms, which they warned would "lead the Greek universities to bankruptcy". Strikers called on the Federation of University Teachers Associations to mobilise the academic community to "defend the interests of the Greek state universities".

With a few exceptions students, who are normally at the vanguard of protests against the government, have so far remained relatively apathetic.

This year's demonstrations to commemorate the 1973 student uprising against the Colonels took place in mid-November without serious incidents. There were two skirmishes between militant students and police who used teargas to disperse them.

The demonstrations commemorate the violent ending of an occupation of the Technological University of Athens by a handful of students, when armed police supported by army tanks broke up the protests, causing heavy casualties, including 20 deaths. The university's gates, demolished by a tank during the action, were symbolically opened to allow people to visit the university and leave flowers on the shrine of those who fell on that day defending their right to freedom of expression.