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Greek students want their public universities, they are afraid of private ones

12 November 2010 / 11:11:56  GRReporter
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“We want public and free education for all, not to divide students by social classes,” says a second year student in Archaeology at the University of Crete. The girl arrived in Athens to participate in a protest against the higher education reform. Students fear that universities will be ‘sold’ to private companies, would lose their independence and freedom of expression, that after the higher education reform many faculties will close and certain diplomas will lose their value.

The union of teachers at the National Polytechnic University Metsovio is against the reform in the higher education and they announced a warning strike and ‘locked’ the halls. Meanwhile, universities administrators have launched a dialogue on the Internet for specific changes in higher education to bring proposals to December 9, when an extraordinary council of rectors of universities will be convened in Athens. Commenting on the protests today, the Minister of Education Anna Diamandopoulou said: “We are open to any proposals and expect to receive such but it is most important for all of us faculties to function properly.”

A bad news never comes alone - these days the Times magazine ranking of the 200 best universities in the world for the first time in years does not contain the name of any Greek University. The Rector of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Yannis Milopoulos told Sky TV that he is not surprised - because on the one hand the Greek universities are only a few decades old, they are not centenarians, but also because they lack better funding. Illustration of this is that students toss in small rooms in residential buildings in Thessaloniki for some lectures.

According to experts in education, the main problem of Greek universities is their introversion, which denies them the opportunity to compete. "One of our main goals is to attract foreign teachers and students to the Greek universities," said the Chief Secretary for Higher Education Vassilis Papazoglou, who added that Greece lost its most brilliant minds in the last ten years and higher education institutions need to take radical and structural changes to stop this.

According to the Ministry of Education, reform should be made in three directions: 1. to make changes in the management and the rector election to be through international competition; 2. teachers selection and development to be transparent and their performance to be evaluated; 3. extrovert higher education by entering into partnerships with foreign universities and to encourage and support the mobility of teachers and students. Rectors will present their proposals in view of the above on December 11 during their extraordinary meeting.

The main demand of students for public and free education was raised once again during the demonstration of left student organizations. First year students from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Athens say that the biggest problem is that there is no good organization, and that most students respond negatively to the bill on reforms in higher education.


Alexandra Criti, second year student at the Faculty of Archaeology in Crete

How will the reforms affect the universities according to you?

The new measures Minister Diamandopoulou wants to implement are actually a wave of privatizations so that a small group of people will have the right to education. Moreover, there is a tendency to ban party organizations at universities and students to be excluded from the management. The university is not good as it is but the university they imagine is not good either. In many departments there are not enough teachers, no infrastructure, teachers have no employment rights, which is unacceptable, but what they want to do will not pass. I can not suggest anything specific, but what I want is public and free education of high quality for all.

Universities in Greece provide their students with free textbooks. Now I will play the role of ‘devil's advocate’ and ask isn’t it proper to pay for the textbooks and only the children from poor families to retain the right of free books?
The question is that there shouldn’t be class distinction - from neither side, neither those who are from wealthy families to pay because they have money, nor those who are poor to not pay. Students should not be divided into rich and poor. But with the new measures that are being prepared it is obvious that minority of people will have the advantage to educate – having in mind the increase in tickets, rents, the food.

The ‘eternal student’ phenomenon is widely spread in Greece. Don’t you think that these students should be encouraged to graduate?

I do not know why they should be constrained to educate how many years they want. The problem with these students comes with their admittance to the university. Some may not want to study in the specialty in which they were admitted. But even if someone is admitted in the specialty that he likes it is very difficult to graduate within the stated years. Sometimes it does not depend only on students because of the organization of the education system through seminars, laboratory work and ceiling in the number of students who can enroll for a lecture. Many students have financial difficulties and must work in parallel with their study. So, they limit the reading time for exams by necessity. But even if we do not consider these factors, everyone can determine the years in which to graduate. No one can be obliged to graduate in four years. Everyone can have additional interests in parallel and outside the university and they want to develop them.

Tags: Greek universitiesReformsStudent protestsEconomic crisisSociety
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