Greek Gov't Submits Private University Bill

(MENAFN- Famagusta Gazette) The Greek government said on Thursday it has submitted a draft bill to parliament that will bring about a historic change to the country's higher education system: providing for the founding of private, non-profit universities for the first time.

The reform will be put to a vote in early March. The government holds a wide majority on the matter in the 300-member assembly. However, it has divided the Greek public, and thousands of students, supported by teachers' associations and opposition parties, have been protesting over the bill for the last seven weeks.

In an opinion poll carried out by local firm Metron Analysis and released on Thursday, 51 percent of respondents said they welcomed the prospect of private universities and 45 percent opposed it.

Private educational institutions may begin operating in Greece from the 2025-2026 academic year onwards, Education Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis said when presenting the bill a few days ago.

“Currently there are 40,000 Greeks studying abroad. There are 30 colleges operating in our country. For decades we have been approaching this issue as taboo,” he said in an interview with local SKAI television. On average, 80,000 students enter Greek state universities each year.

The bill foresees that overseas universities will be allowed to set up branches that will charge students fees, but operate according to a non-profit model. The criteria for founding such an institution will be“the strictest in Europe,” Pierrakakis said. Institutions will have to invest at least 2 million euros (2.16 million U.S. dollars) in buildings and academic personnel.

Greek students enrolling at these private branches of foreign universities will have to go through the Greek university entrance examination system, and meet minimum requirements to be offered a place, he said.

They will also need to meet any additional criteria imposed by the“parent” foreign universities. Graduates of equivalent schools in other countries, or holders of the international baccalaureate, will be able to enroll without sitting exams.

Opponents of the bill said the reform will eventually undermine public universities, which for decades have offered free undergraduate courses. ■


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