Greek students protest government plan for private universities

Police clashed with students who rallied in Athens on Thursday against planned education reforms that would allow the introduction of private universities in the country.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who won a second term last year, is expected to submit a bill to parliament this month that would permit private universities to operate in the country as Greek branches of foreign universities.

Announcing the bill last December, Mitsotakis said it aimed to attract foreign students to the country and make a significant contribution to the Greek economy.

A protester holds a flare during a demonstration outside the Greek Parliament, Athens, Greece, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

He added that the approximately 40,000 Greek students who travel abroad for higher education each year would have the option to study in the country.

Greece has 24 accredited government-funded public universities where attendance has been free for decades. It also has several private colleges. 

The country has implemented a series of educational reforms in the past, despite fierce opposition from students and staff.

Protesters march during a demonstration in central Athens, Greece, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Student unions believe the move will devalue degrees from Greece’s public universities and that the private system will exclude those who cannot afford it.

The Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME) who participated in the protest said it supported the public character of universities.

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