Plan splits Greeks

May 29, 1998

Should Greece develop private universities? The issue is splitting Greek public opinion, and the politicians, down the middle.

Ministers have contradicted each other and MPs clashed during a parliamentary debate on a revision to the constitution that would pave the way for the establishment of private universities.

The motion was tabled by the official opposition and attracted the support of several government MPs, a move that threatens to embarrass the administration, which is undecided on the issue.

Evangelos Venizelos, the culture minister and a professor of constitutional law, left the issue open. The justice minister, Evangelos Giannopoulos, was opposed. Education minister Gerasimos Arsenis, while not set against the proposals, asserted that his reforms - free access to higher education for all, creation of an open university and flexible study programmes - would obviate the need for private universities.

Academics are also divided. Most are opposed, but others feel private universities will benefit the entire education system. Students are divided on political lines - government supporters are fighting the development while opposition supporters back it.

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