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New Democracy Moves for University Standards, Tougher Security

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/Vasilis Rebapis, file)

ATHENS - Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government has proposed education reforms requiring higher standards for universities and also to crack down on violence there and punishment for students occupying buildings.

It was a counter to the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA - rebranded the SYRIZA Progressive Alliance after a July, 2019 pounding loss to the Conservatives - essentially opening university doors even to those with failing scores.

At the same time, the government said it wants to rein in trouble on campuses in the wake of attacks on academics and anarchists getting onto school grounds after New Democracy eliminated asylum there that SYRIZA had reinstituted.

The benchmark for getting into Greek universities had been failing grades anyway, requiring only that students score 50 percent on entrance exams and then after getting in didn’t have to go to class or graduate, the “eternal student” dilemma.

While the leftists were in power, students who scored only 30 percent were allowed to enter universities for some majors, such as the math department of the University of the Aegean annex on the island of Samos, noted Kathimerini.

Other reforms would set a ceiling on the number of schools that applicants can list on a preference form and also how long they can stay without graduating or face being booted, which doesn’t happen now.

The Mitsotakis government also announced measures to boost security and combat vandalism on campuses, the paper said, including creating unarmed campus cops to guard and patrol university grounds, under the command of Greek Police.

Access to campuses would be limited to keep out those who aren’t students or staff but the plan has already drawn a mixed response, some academics wanting an end to violence and others not wanting government or police involvement.

University sit-ins, flyposting in the campus and disruptions of senate meetings by students will lead to disciplinary action, according to the provisions of a new draft bill published by the Education Ministry, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.

The bill described the discipline as being applied to “the deliberate obstruction of the proper functioning of the institution, including its educational, research or administrative operation as well as the operation of its single-member and collective bodies and services, as well as the uninterrupted use of facilities and equipment.”

Another provision also bans the use of indoor or outdoor areas, facilities, infrastructure and equipment of the university without the permission of university officials, who had regularly let students do what they want and occupy areas.

The penalties begin a written warning and scale up to being barred from courses, temporary or permanent prohibition of use of equipment or facilities of the institution, and temporary or permanent suspension and expulsion.