Greek Education Minister Lauds Coming End of College Asylum

Greece’s new Education Minister Niki Kerameus. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Greece’s new Education Minister Niki Kerameus said the new New Democracy government’s plans to end asylum on college campuses that had been used as hideouts for criminals and anarchists will restore safety and freedom of expression.

Kerameus, a Harvard Law School graduate who is also a member of the New York Bar Association, said the government will overhaul the education sector and “repair the damage” she said was wrought by the ousted former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.

The Leftists administration, critics said, dumbed down the education system and a former SYRIZA education chief had said that “excellence in education was not a virtue,” as the party wanted to lower standards.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said one of his first priorities would be to end the asylum law that had been reactivated under SYRIZA, which is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers and whose members had a history of college protests and takeovers.

Speaking to Kathimerini in her first interview, she said the government’s first bill will abolish the asylum system as it has 158 seats and control over the 300-member Parliament.

“Our universities have been turned into lairs of violence and crime.” Authorities should be able to intervene in the event of lawlessness on campus as they are able to do in any other public space, she said.

As for the previous government’s drive to upgrade technical colleges, Kerameus remarked that, although technical education should be bolstered, her predecessors went about it the wrong way, “without academic criteria, assessment or feasibility studies.”

She said New Democracy, which trounced SYRIZA and former Premier Alexis Tsipras in July 7 snap elections, would change how universities are run, bring back academic councils and seek donations.

The strategic aim is to create “autonomous, self-governing, evaluated, competitive, outward-looking” institutions that are in step with the job market, she added. There was no report whether she or Mitsotakis would move to allow private universities.

Greece is the only European Union country barring them and not allowing holders of degrees from private or foreign colleges to be eligible for state jobs even if they went to Ivy League schools such as Harvard, as Kerameus and Mitsotakis did.

She said one initiative will offer undergraduate studies in foreign languages in a bid to attract students from outside the EU, and another will look at public-private partnerships to cover certain needs such as student accommodation.

The government will also seek to promote experimental and model schools that could operate as hubs for “excellence and innovation,” Kerameus said, adding that SYRIZA, “due to its ideology,” had undercut quality in education systems.