Chancellors fight state's private plan

June 28, 1996

University chiefs are on a collision course with the Greek education ministry over private universities.

The disclosure of a ministry secret document containing plans to found private universities has led to angry outcries from the chancellors.

George Paschalidis, undersecretary of state for education, has denied that free state education is in danger. But he admits the government is examining ways that universities could receive large sums of money from private sources.

The chancellors see this as a way of introducing private universities through the back door.

The government argues that revision of the constitution will allow local authorities, the Church, trade unions and other bodies to run universities on a non-profit basis. This would provide much-needed places for students who now study abroad and would plug the foreign exchange drain.

It would also create competition with state universities leading to the improvement of education, it says.

But the chancellors argue that the measures would allow poor quality private educational organisations, such as liberal studies centres, with neither the structure nor the facilities to provide proper higher education to call themselves universities.

The chancellors are not opposed to private universities but want certain conditions and safeguards. They insist state universities could provide high quality education if they were not starved of essential funding and were allowed to function properly and independently.

The Students Union Central Council called on the education secretary to clarify his intentions, preserve free state education and grant-aid it instead of starving it of funds.

In a survey of secondary students about to enter university 34.8 per cent strongly disagreed with setting up private universities, 13.8 per cent disagreed, 17.8 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed and 33.6 per cent agreed or rather agreed.

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