04/15/2012 06:16 EDT | Updated 06/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec Student Tuition Strike: Line Beauchamp, Quebec Education Minister, Reaches Out To Students But Won't Bend On Tuition Hikes


MONTREAL - The Quebec government has offered what it hopes will be seen as an olive branch to the province's students.

Education Minister Line Beauchamp said Sunday she's prepared work with a leading student group, the FEUQ, to set up an independent commission to manage university finances.

"I'm ready to move on this, and I invite students to join me at the table," Beauchamp said at news conference.

Students have been very critical of the way Quebec universities are run, pointing to what they see as wasteful spending and exorbitant bonuses for top officials.

But Beauchamp was quick to add she remains committed to the planned tuition fee increases, which have been the main sticking point for students.

For more than two months, some 165,000 Quebec students have been fighting against the provincial government's plan, staging walkouts and blocking entrances to classrooms.

Liberal Premier Jean Charest wants to increase tuition fees by $325 annually over the next five years, bringing them to about $3,800 a year.

At the news conference, Beauchamp also said she's not prepared to negotiate with another important student group, the CLASSE, because it has failed to condemn violent forms of protest.

Seven people were arrested on Friday shortly after a group broke into and vandalized Beauchamp's Montreal office.

On Saturday, though, thousands of students and their supporters held a peaceful march through the streets of Montreal.

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