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Following the elections in Greece that took place at the end of January, and brought Alexis Tsipras as new Prime Minister, a new government has been formed accordingly. The Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs (competent for higher education and research) has been entrusted to Aristides Baltas, also belonging to the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). He holds a Master’s degree in electrical and mechanical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) as well as a Master’s and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Paris XI, France. Under Prof. Baltas coordination, there will be under-secretaries specifically responsible for defined areas: Tasos Kourakis for education and Kostas Fotakis for research and technology (an area completely neglected by the previous government).
During a press conference right after entering office, Baltas stated that an immediate priority for the Greek ministry is the “humanitarian crisis” in schools - due to a lack of food, heat and teachers as a result of the austerity measures. Concerning higher education, among the priorities there is the solution of the "eternal students’ problem”, meaning students who suspend their studies in order to find work to sustain themselves. Other proposals are to abolish pan-Hellenic examinations that limit the access to higher education and to prevent the abolishment of article 16 in the Greek constitution, which provides for free state education for all citizens and precludes the establishment of high fees private universities. Also, announcements of a new legal framework propose to re-instate political asylum in universities, encourage the development of electronic libraries, discard management councils in universities and introduce new means for the election of rectors.