The Greek government is planning constitutional reform to pave the way for the establishment of private universities.
George Papandreou, the secretary of state for education, announced at a press conference his intention to place legislation before parliament which would revise article 16 of the Greek constitution, regularise the relationship between higher and tertiary education and open the way for the establishment of private universities, which are currently forbidden by the constitution.
Other proposals include the creation of a national education committee, easier access to courses, greater movement of students and credit transfer from one university to another. Greek communities abroad would have the right to establish and operate tertiary educational establishments which would be equal to those operating in Greece.
Mr Papandreou claimed it was the first time tertiary education has been addressed in an integrated fashion. Education would remain state-controlled but local and regional authorities, the Church, cultural associations and other organisations would have the right to provide tertiary education, helping to liberate it from the state's tight bureaucratic embrace. There would be greater flexibility and adaptability, and the reforms would attempt to stem the flow of Greek students (25,000 in 1993) to universities abroad.
The national education committee, he added, would not only supervise the quality of education provided but would also be responsible for the assessment and validation of qualifications, taking away from the academic community the responsibility for ensuring the professional rights of the graduates.
The education secretary's proposals, particularly his intention to seek revision of the constitution, were given a mixed reception by other political parties. Mr Papandreou's immediate predecessor, former Conservative education minister George Souflias, opposes private universities.
He said: "The only reform which needs a constitutional revision is the private universities and in this respect the government and the education secretary continue to follow the same anachronistic course."