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Greek students mobilize against private university plan

Evangelo Sipsas in Athens


Since the beginning of the month, students in more than 40 cities across Greece have been protesting against private universities. They are worried both that their degrees will be downgraded and that less funding will be allocated to public education. 

Thursday saw the third of what's expected to be a series of demonstrations held by students and professors opposing the privatization of universities in the country.

What started as a peaceful demonstration escalated to scuffles, tear gas and stun grenades being deployed by riot police. 

All this as thousands took part in protests in the Greek capital over the government's decision to pave the way for private universities to set up shop in the country.

Greek university and high school students chant slogans in front of the Greek parliament. /Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters
Greek university and high school students chant slogans in front of the Greek parliament. /Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters

Greek university and high school students chant slogans in front of the Greek parliament. /Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters

Demonstrators worry that part of the already decreased public funding will be allocated to private institutions. 

"Public funding for universities has been sliced almost in half since the financial crisis," university student Evgenia told CGTN. "Instead of decreasing the public budget and giving to private universities, the government could allocate that to upgrade our facilities." 

She added: "My university doesn't even have dorms. Coming to Athens to study I had to rent an apartment, and now they want me to pay for tuition. I'll be out here every day to protest if needed."

Marching through the Greek capital before arriving at the parliament, thousands of students and professors chanted, "education is not for sale" and "studying is a right, not a business."


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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's government is expected to submit a bill to parliament next week that would permit private universities to operate in the country as Greek branches of foreign universities. 

The aim is to attract foreign students to the country and make a significant contribution to the Greek economy, something that both students and professors dispute. They argue that the move will only devalue public universities and that the private system will exclude those who cannot afford it. 

University professor Christos Katsikas told CGTN: "Our community, most professors and those working in the field, know that if private institutions are established in the country it will push for the public institutions to start charging for tuition to stay open and compete, so at the end everything will have a fee. So it will be the end of free education."

Greece is the only EU country where university study is still free and has 24 accredited government-funded public universities.  

Now the government wants that to change, making higher education more competitive on a global scale.

However, students believe that this bill will eliminate free education and only make it accessible to those who can afford it.  

Greek students mobilize against private university plan

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