Greek PM urges parliament to approve education bill

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 5:19 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged parliament on Friday to approve an education bill that allows foreign private universities to set up branches in the country, which he said was a much-needed reform to reverse an exodus of Greek students overseas.

Students, teachers and university staff have staged repeated protests over the past weeks against the planned reform, saying it will devalue degrees from public universities and further reduce state funding for public education.

Mitsotakis, who won a second term in June last year, told parliament the reform will help reverse an exodus of tens of thousands of Greek students to universities abroad which has also deprived the economy, still recovering from a decade-long financial crisis, as those students and their families are spending money overseas rather than at home.

Despite strong opposition, the bill is likely to be approved as the conservative government controls 158 lawmakers in the 300-seat legislature.

“Parliament is not only called to vote on a pivotal bill but to approve a radical and courageous education reform for growth and social justice,” Mitsotakis said. “It will finally allow non-state, non-profitable institutions to operate in our country.”

The bill is part of the government’s reform agenda that also includes a same sex marriage law that was passed last month.

Mitsotakis said the education bill will also help align Greece with the rest of the European Union and boost competition in higher education.

Students are planning more protests on Friday and are expected to march to parliament in central Athens before lawmakers vote on the bill later in the evening.

Greece spends 3%-4% of its annual economic output on education, below an EU average. But Mitsotakis said the bill stipulated increased funding for state universities.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Susan Fenton)