ATHENS – It’s been promised before but Greece’s new Education Minister Kyriakos Pierrakis said the New Democracy government will move ahead with plans to allow private colleges.
Those are prohibited under Article 16 of the Constitution which gives the country’s low-rated public universities a monopoly and which allow students with what would be considered failing grades in many countries to be admitted.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the pledge after winning a second term but previous governments have done the same before backing off under pressure from academics and critics of foreign colleges, many with higher standards.
“Article 16 is an anachronism, and we are determined to change it,” he said during an interview with SKAI radio, which could prove difficult as while the government has 158 of 300 seats in Parliament it would require 180 votes twice in separate votes at least one month apart.
Pierrakakis, who has a Master’s Degree from the JFK School at Harvard as well as from MIT – the type of colleges not allowed in Greece – said allowing private colleges wouldn’t be a threat to public schools, which he said would be upgraded.
He said some 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) euros would be allocated for programs in public universities that have struggled with violence, student, and outsider takeovers and are often covered in graffiti.
He said that he was disappointed that the major opposition SYRIZA, which doesn’t want standards and whose former education minister said that excellence in education “wasn’t a virtue,” is fighting the idea.
“The architects of artificial polarization and the proponents of inertia will face the political cost,” Pierrakakis said in an open shot at the Leftists, who wanted standards lowered and no entrance exam to get into universities.
Earlier, Minister of State Makis Voridis also said the government would try to override the opposition to the plan, although that would require convincing at least 22 political rivals to go along with the plan.
He said that Mitsotakis’ push was that “on a first level comes to be added to the effort made by the country and our government to overcome this dreadful inflexibility that has been created by Article 16 and which has left us as the only country in the European Union without private universities. This unbearable insanity is something that outrages the whole of society. I hope it will end with the revision of the Constitution.”
It was uncertain whether – as has happened before – he was making utterances that won’t be followed up although the government was able to get enough votes in the Parliament to remove restrictions on voting by the Diaspora.
Minister of State Making Voridis said, however, that Mitsotakis will be the one to finally remove the Article 16 block on private universities as for now graduates of even Ivy League colleges wouldn’t be allowed state jobs.
Voridis told Real FM that it’s part “of the effort made by the country and our government to overcome this dreadful inflexibility that has been created by Article 16 and and which has left us as the only country in the European Union without private universities.”
He added that, “This unbearable insanity is something that outrages the whole of society. I hope it will end with the revision of the constitution,” the minister said, but no timetable has been given as to when – or if – that will be tried.