Populism grips education
Premier defends new bill as critics say it will plunge universities into the past
Eager to polish the government’s leftist credentials, tainted by yet another swath of belt-tightening measures, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday sought to defend a new education bill perceived as plunging Greek universities into the past.
The proposed legislation, which has also raised eyebrows among the nation’s foreign creditors, was harshly criticized by Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a heated parliamentary debate during which the conservative opposition leader outlined his rival vision for the country’s tertiary sector. A vote on the bill is to be held today. Brushing aside criticism of the measures as reactionary, Tsipras said that his administration was “setting the foundations for the country’s future education [system].” The objective of the bill, he said, was to achieve “more democracy” at Greek universities. The proposed measures are designed to strengthen the role of students in the management of universities while making it more difficult for police to enter university grounds, essentially reinstating an asylum law that was scrapped by the previous conservative administration. Another provision foresees 40 percent of students enrolled in postgraduate programs being exempt from having to pay university and college fees. In his speech, Tsipras described changes to post- graduate programs as an attempt to take on “vested interests,” while denouncing university evaluation as “academic darwinism.” Meanwhile, speaking on plans to restore the university asylum law, which prevents police from entering campuses in most cases, Tsipras called for a “robust student movement” that will keep lawless behavior at bay. Sticking to a familiar mantra, the leader of the opposition deconstructed the bill portraying it as part of a wider government campaign to make a norm of the lowest common denominator. He vowed to scrap the law if New Democracy wins the next elections. Mitsotakis added that the bill aims to hold education ransom to partisan politics.