Greek universities are to close for a week as a warning and longer if necessary if the government fails to solve their long-standing financial and operational problems. Their collective debt is conservatively estimated at more than Dr4 billion (Pounds 11 million).
A last-minute offer of an additional Dr1.4 billion made by George Papandreou, the education secretary, to meet the universities' immediate operational expenses was not enough to reverse the closure decision. University chancellors noted the secretary's gesture of goodwill but rejected it as "totally inadequate to resolve the crisis".
At an extraordinary council meeting, the chancellors noted that "although the education ministry expressed its good intentions, it did not announce any measures which would lead out of the crisis and to the improvement of the universities" and reiterated their decision to go ahead with the week's closures.
They asked for a meeting with prime minister Andreas Papandreou "as the only appropriate person who could guarantee a solution to the problems faced by Greek education". The chancellors are determined to resist the deterioration of the universities, fearing it will provide an excuse for the establishment of private ones.
They are demanding enough funds to employ teaching staff necessary for their educational programmes and raise the salaries of administrative staff, who have been on strike making student registration difficult. They would also like money for buildings, repairs and the provision of essential materials to be given to the universities at the start of the financial year.