Many students go to university, few graduate

Share of those who complete studies as a percentage of total enrollments is close to 50%

Many students go to university, few graduate

Reflecting chronic shortcomings of Greece’s higher education system, only around one out of two students admitted to university get degrees, according to data from the National Higher Education Authority (ETHAAE). 

“While the student population in Greece remains among the largest in Europe and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the number of graduates is lower. In 2019-20, while about 87,000 new students were admitted, about 44,000 graduated,” said ETHAAE President Pericles Mitkas at the first meeting of the Standing Committee on Educational Affairs of the Parliament on the Greek University in the era of Exponential Technological Changes.

“In the last five years, the percentage of our graduates in relation to those who enroll at all universities is close to 50%,” he said.

Many reasons have been postulated for this state of affairs, including a distorted examination system and the mentality of families who believe that a university degree will open the gates to the civil service instead of encouraging their children to go to a vocational school.

What’s more, authorities lament that new programs are created without strategic planning, while the number of students increases as the number of teachers decreases.

According to ETHAAE data, approximately 680,000 undergraduate and 120,000 postgraduate students are enrolled in Greek universities. 

Mitkas stated that the 24 universities in the country and the School of Pedagogical and Technological Education (ASPETE) offer a total of 430 undergraduate programs in 427 departments (there are another 31 police, army etc departments), 1110 postgraduate programs and 291 doctoral programs. 

There are a total of about 20,000 educators, of whom 50% are permanent faculty members, raising the student-to-teacher ratio to almost 40:1, by far the highest among OECD countries.

“There are huge forces in Greek universities waiting to be unleashed to create much more than they can now. The mechanisms that will release them do not need to be discovered. They have been discovered elsewhere but need to be adapted,” said Athens University Rector Andreas Boudouvis, who bemoans the delays in enforcing academic evaluations, noting that the prerequisite mentality for this is still in its infancy.

He also rues the delay in the effort to make Greek institutions more outward-looking to internationalize their studies. Furthermore he is doubtful whether the self-government of universities can be managed, which is “perhaps the most basic mechanism for the release of these forces.”

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