Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dean Anastasios Manthos

Even by the turbulent standards of Greek education the previous week has been unprecedented. Once again many of the country's major universities have been occupied by students protesting plans by the government to permit the founding of private universities and the general lack of funding for the state sector higher education. In addition university elections have been halted sometimes with violent confrontations between different political factions.

Elections for the dean of faculties in universities across Greece lead to a number of violent episodes. In the Greek port town of Patra students clashed with riot police and a number of cars were set on fire. In Thessaloniki similar clashes between riot police and students were reported. On Wednesday the dean of the Aristotelian university of Thessaloniki, Anastasios Manthos was hospitalised after heated debate with student turned violent. The following days a gang of 30 attacked and severely beat two night watchmen on the university campus.

The conservative New Democracy government is seeking to change the country's constitution in order to allow the setting up of private universities so bring Greece in line with EU law. In addition they argue that such universities could led to an improvement to Greece's chronically ailing state run higher education sector. It should be noted that just two Greek universities made the Times Higher Education QS rankings top 400 at position 248 and 356.

On the other hand opposition politicians and students argue that long term lack of funding for education in general has hampered the country's universities and that what is needed is an overhaul of the system to bring it in line with European standards.

The protests come at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the government of Kostas Karamanlis whose administration has been involved with a number of sexual and financial scandals since its re-election in 2007. In addition rising food and petrol prices have caused hardship amongst those on low incomes. Many accuse the government of negligence over its inability to curb the spiralling cost of living which has seen many basic goods rise five times greater than in other European countries.

Uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ on 4 Jun 08, 3.11PM EEST.

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