NEWS

New body for higher education

The Ministry of Education is thinking of setting up an independent body to evaluate Greek higher education institutes in order to put the country on A par with its European counterparts that have such a system, say sources close to Kathimerini. The same sources say the ministry’s leadership is leaning toward a body with a number of members, who will not be able to form any kind of majority and who will be able to appeal to third parties and European assessors. The system of evaluation will apply both to universities and TEIs. Already, the proposal has caused a stir in the educational community, with a meeting of TEI deans in Larissa on January 21 and 22 set to discuss how technical institutes will be evaluated, sources say. At the same time, the university deans’ next meeting (in Athens on February 28 to March 1) will set up a committee to come up with proposals on how to carry out the evaluation of universities, the dean of the Agriculture University told Kathimerini. A majority of higher education figures agree with evaluation, with only some student groups coming out against it, arguing that the criteria that will be adopted will be geared to the labor market and will not be academic in character. Nevertheless, there are several problems with the evaluation procedures and which criteria are to be chosen (eg student performance, building infrastructure). There are also reactions to the idea of an independent body, since many feel that universities ought to evaluate themselves. Whenever it takes place, evaluation is expected to reveal all the open wounds in Greek education. Already, the initial picture is causing concern, with Greek universities struggling to meet European criteria set by the Education Ministry for funding proposals for 2003’s postgraduate programs. (A small number have already begun, since the end of 2002). This initial evaluation of proposals by European assessors, meant, for the first time, that funding, rather than being allocated in order to maintain delicate balances between the institutes, was granted on the basis of economic viability and socioeconomic benefit, according to CSF special secretary Georgios Tsamasfyros. Of the 129 postgraduate proposals, 41 were approved (or 32 percent.) Indicatively, to what extent the subject corresponded to the demands of the job market, companies’ interest in hiring students that have finished the course, how far the subject represented leading-edge science or was a first priority for Greece, were all criteria in granting a program approval. Cost was another factor, with approval being given to programs whose budget did not exceed the European ceiling by more than 20 percent.