Greek police officers clashed with protestors waving wooden poles with red flags at demonstrations that took place Thursday night decrying Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ bill that would grant licenses to foreign universities to operate within the nation. Videos appear to show that police later utilized tear gas against the protestors after several of their officers were allegedly attacked.
If the bill is passed, foreign universities will be granted permission to establish branches in Greece through new investments or private colleges so long as they meet the standards outlined by the state. Prime Minister Mitsotakis announced the controversial bill in December 2023 and celebrated the “substantial abolition of the state monopoly in higher education” and the possibility of introducing non-state funded universities to the country.
Mitsotakis insisted, in an interview with Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the President of Greece, that these “upgrades” and reforms to higher education would not mean that funding for public universities would cease, and that standards for foreign, non-state universities would remain “incredibly high” to ensure that educational quality is maintained throughout. He further added that he believed that the majority of Greek citizens would approve of the bill and subsequent reform. Additional benefits would include Greek students forced to travel abroad to study at their chosen universities being given the option of staying home to study and that the changes would positively impact the economy. According to Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, the establishment of private universities is strictly prohibited, with it mandating that education is “strictly free” and a duty of the state. Therefore, Mitsotakis would be changing decades of precedent by allowing private universities to exist in the nation.
The bill is set to be debated later this month amidst concerns that it might defund and devalue the public institutions many Greeks have relied upon and supported to attain a higher education.