• Several thousand university students and supporters protested in central Athens on Thursday against the Greek conservative government’s plans to allow privately run universities.
  • The government is pushing legislation to allow privately run universities, citing the need to prevent Greek students from studying abroad.
  • Opponents argue that the measure would undermine public universities already facing funding difficulties.

Several thousand university students and supporters took part in a protest in central Athens Thursday to oppose plans by Greece‘s conservative government to allow privately run universities.

The protesters, chanting “Students, United, Will Win,” filed past the main Athens University building and statues of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates as they marched through central Athens and riot police took up positions in nearby side streets.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right government is pushing through several key pieces of legislation early in the new year, taking advantage of a landslide reelection in 2023, and a huge lead in opinion polls.

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It argues the measure would stop thousands of Greeks going abroad each year to study, and would keep vital skills in the country.

Greece protest

Protesters march during a demonstration in central Athens, Greece, on Jan. 18, 2024. Thousands of students participated in a protest against the Greek government’s plans to allow private universities. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

But opponents say it would undermine public universities, which are already facing funding difficulties.

The government has faced a series of protests by various professional groups in recent weeks, triggered by the legislative reforms and the cost of living crisis.

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In central Greece Thursday, farmers used tractors to block sections of a highway, demanding additional financial support from the government to reduce production costs.

Farmers’ groups told The Associated Press that they were holding meetings Thursday to consider further action.

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