ATHENS, Greece (AP) — More than 15,000 protesters gathered in central Athens Thursday to oppose plans by Greece’s conservative government to allow private universities in the country starting next year.

The mostly young demonstrators chanted “hands off education” as they gathered outside the main building of the University of Athens. A giant protest banner draped above the entrance read “Their Profits or Our Education.”

The government wants to allow overseas universities to set up branches in Greece that would operate under the national exam system for student candidates. The branches would charge fees but operate under a non-profit structure.

Opponents argue that it would undermine public universities, many of which already have funding difficulties, and threaten freely available higher education for undergraduate students in the future.

Student protest groups have organized multiple demonstrations in cities across Greece and occupied dozens of university faculty buildings, forcing classes and exams to be held online.

Parliament is expected to vote on the education bill at the end of the month.

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